Day 6, travelogue

St Eugene de Mazenod

Catholics don’t know how to celebrate. I say this with all love, but it’s true. Here is proof:

Today is the 125th anniversary of the passing of St Eugene de Mazenod, the founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, under whose auspices Lebh Shomea operates, and to which order Fr Kelly belongs. It is, therefore, the feast day of St Eugene and his order. In the little room off the vestibule of the church, where the tabernacle is kept (a complaint for another post), there is a small statue of St Eugene and a relic of his. Whenever I come into the chapel, I always stop here first and pay my respects to the Lord in His tabernacle and to the local Saint. Seems the Christian and neighborly thing to do.

There were proper readings at Mass this morning for St Eugene, I will give them that, and Fr Kelly offered some reflections on his life in a brief homily. He was born of French aristocracy some six years before the Revolution in France and his family fled to Italy to escape the Terror. The family was dysfunctional, with his parents separating in a vicious divorce and mamma taking up incestuously with a cousin of hers. Yet in the midst of such horror and pain, Eugene found Christ and went on to found an order of missionaries, as well. This much we learned. Apart from that, nothing else was done to mark the feast.

I couldn’t stand it.

I collared Fr Kelly as he was recessing out after the Mass and asked if I could offer a blessing, to which he consented, so I sang him and his order “Many Years,” to the general pleasure of everyone there (I think, too, that many people love Fr Kelly dearly and maybe they don’t have many opportunities to show it, given the ordo of this place).

Now, had this been an Orthodox church, there would, of course, have been Vigil with Litya the evening before, the Icon of the Saint and his relic would have been in the center of the church for everyone to venerate, neighboring clergy would have come to concelebrate (admittedly, there are no neighbors, much less neighboring clergy, in these parts) and he would have had a Troparion which we all would have known and sang. There would be a relaxation of the rules of the monastery (perhaps no work obediences today); dispensation for fish, wine, and oil (had it been a fasting day) or something special to eat in the refectory, along with a cup of wine, for the glory of God.

But this is not an Orthodox place, it is Catholic, and Catholics, I maintain, don’t know how to celebrate. I suggested to Fr Kelly and Sr Marie that, in honor of St Eugene, there should be ice cream at lunch.

I’m not holding my breath.

* * *

Yesterday it was hot. Really hot, as in 93 degrees and God-only-knows-how-high-the-humidity hot. Anybody working outside in such weather is doomed to misery and sweat. But I, I was standing still to pray in my cell and sweat was dripping down the small of my back and rolling off my face to hit the floor. When you sweat like that just standing still, it’s too damned hot. I gave up being macho and turned on the air conditioner.

The big ol’ pot o’ pinto beans that appears every day at lunch has become as comfortable as an old shoe. I caught myself smiling when I saw them today in their usual place, two big serving spoons sticking out of the bowl, and had mine garnished with sweet Vidalia onion. Cold cuts every night for supper, however, have gotten old. Maybe cold cuts have had all the soul pressed out of them while pintos still possess their beany souls. I don’t know, but it’s hard to love a cold meat sandwich.

* * *

A snake crossed the road this morning
like a train
I stopped my prayer to let him pass
without the clatter, smooth as oil,
as quiet as I hope to be.
I marked the point of his tail on the road
when his head touched the grass.
Six feet long he was,
longer than I am tall.
He sought a cool place to rest,
moving as his nature bids,
closer to God
for trailing on the ground.

* * *

I take it all back. There was ice cream at lunch.


Posted on May 21, 2011, in Travelogue and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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