February 2016

Monday 1st. This morning, we heard of something that happened last evening: Holstein break-out. The cows managed to get out of the barn, and Brother Stephan had to convince them to go back into the barn. One of them had gone around to the other side of the barn, into the hay loft. Steve says that it is easier to handle this situation in the winter time, because the cows find the countryside a lot less interesting then. Cows are curious animals and little by little they check out everything in the barn: every chain, every switch, every smell. Things come undone, or open, or fall accordingly. At our monastery in Lantao, Hong Kong, some dairy cows once broke away (while being moved, I think). The monks could not get them back and, owing to the mild climate, the cows managed to adjust to life in the wild, having offspring there. A friend of mine was walking in the woods near the monastery a few years ago and came face to face with one of these ‘wild’ cows, to his surprise.

Tuesday 2nd. In the guesthouse today, Brother Stephan was cutting some pipe for the generator hook-up, and the smoke from this set off our fire alarm.

Wednesday 3rd. Brother Léo got a new watch today. On the farm, Roger Gallant is building new barn doors out of wood, on the south face. These are the smaller barn doors. This time these doors will have windows. They will still have the tiny built-in door for cats to go through. It is marked “cats only”.

Thursday 4th. It was time for more brake work on the car, which meant also picking up a piece for the emergency generator in Moncton’s industrial park. On the farm, Brother Glic is training for doing chores like the feeding in the newer of our two barns, the heifer barn.

Friday 5th. We bid adieu this morning to a retreatant who drove here from Québec. We seem to get more retreatants from west of here than previously, as the world becomes a smaller place still.

Saturday 6th. The new barn doors are looking good, and the extra light is welcome. Roger Gallant had to work outside in cold and snowy conditions some days as the weather dipped up and down this week. This morning we began our scheduled discussion of the liturgy. We may re-introduce some simple elements. Little things come and go in how we do things. Steve was able to recall some interesting parts of our recent history this morning: what practices were tried, why some practices were abandoned. Dom Bede for his part was able to tell us of practices that found their way into our Order’s liturgy from the Eastern Church.

Sunday 7th. More, nice Andrea Bocelli at lunch time. Canada’s own David Foster is one of the producers of the album, Cinema.

Monday, February 8th. After no sales for quite a while, the bookstore sold a few hundred dollars’ worth of books over two weeks. That’s the way it goes.

Tuesday, February 9th. Today, Brother Léo was teasing the technician who is reworking our exit lights: would he like Léo to help him? The technician didn’t really join in on the humor. However, while working at the door, Brother Léo simply carries on good-naturedly.

Wednesday, February 10th. Although snow and cold arrive, sunny mornings do too, at least this winter they do. This morning the birds were singing, the cook was happy as she arrived. Lent begins today, with its different sounds as we sing, a different feeling in the chapel as our friends from town join us for Mass. We’ll have Lenten reading in common after Lauds in the scriptorium, as we did last year, each monk choosing a book. I asked the nuns’ chaplain Father Clovis what his plan for Lent was and he said it was to take things one day at a time.

Thursday, February 11th. Brother Henry says that Dom Bede is able to get EWTN running on his computer remotely, which is great for Henry, a fan who also corresponded with Mother Angelica in the days when our friend Brother Anthony Opisso would appear on television with her.

Friday, February 12th. This week, Father Roger did some testing in the chicken barn of the sound level of various equipment, with a machine we rented. Guess there are (new?) standards for that.

Saturday, February 13th. This morning we continued our discussion of the community’s liturgy. Some questions remained open for when we meet again like this next week, the monthly retreat, for example. Dom Bede made a few suggestions: The Priests could aim for more variety in terms of the Eucharistic prayer chosen and the occasional use of Masses in the Missal for special intentions, like peace for example. This will help people at Mass be more able to pray. As well, a new sheet was distributed giving indications for the beginning of the Office, which will now begin more gradually; and for Mass, where all the community will now gather around the altar for the second part, as is not unusual in other monasteries. Another decision: we are going to sing the psalms of Tierce in English instead of French, Saturdays, as part of our weekly Mass in English.

Sunday, February 14th. At Mass we were all united around the altar, not only the Priests, and it was nice. One reason for this change was simply acoustic: Brother Stephan was a bit far away from the rest of the schola when singing the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei.

Monday 15th. Brett the Technician was by to work on our machines, a smile on his face and a big machine under his arm. Brother Stephan got away to the lakeside hermitage for a few days’ retreat. He had not been able to do that for quite some time.

Tuesday 16th. Brother Léo was featured in a newspaper story last week (in L’Acadie Nouvelle) and today we heard that reaction to the article from north of here has been quite positive. The piece was written by Father Serge Comeau, a Priest from the Bathurst diocese. The article begins at Father Maurice’s graveside, where Serge stood at Brother Léo’s side last December, and ends with Brother Léo’s remarks on prayer and on his own eventual life’s end.

Wednesday 17th. The chicken barn alarms were down recently, which means less information on the temperature in the barns, a crucial factor for raising chickens year-round. They may be replaced by a wireless system. In refectory, we finished reading the joint declaration of Pope Francis and Russian Patriarch Kirill. It is a fine document where the two men focus together on what is important to them in 2016, and what they feel should be important for us. They express their pain at the historical circumstances which hold them apart, “the outcome of human weakness and of sin”, and hope for the re-establishment of communion between Catholics and Orthodox.

Thursday 18th. Our Lenten reading is off to a good start. It seems quieter this year when we are together in the scriptorium this way. The reading lasts from roughly 6:50 to 7:10.

Friday 19th. Brother Stephan re-appeared behind the organ for Vespers. His retreat went well. He did not see any animals in the woods, but heard one in the ceiling of the hermitage: a squirrel.

Saturday 20th. We had a third meeting to discuss the liturgy. After hearing our thoughts, Dom Bede decided to eliminate the monthly schedule change to the first Sunday, which put Vespers fifteen minutes earlier. We then moved on to the question of English in our liturgy, finishing with some minor changes in order to bring more English in. Vespers and Lauds will now feature the Our Father in English sometimes. The short hymn at the office of Sext will be sung in English.

Sunday 21st. We have a new ceiling fan in the dairy barn. It is quite an improvement on the old one, which was starting to resemble a memento from World War II. The new fan was raised after a few days; sometimes we have to climb up out of the alley we milk in, and given Brother Stephan’s height, the fan was a bit dangerous.

Monday 22nd. Father Graham went to Moncton to visit an aunt who is in the hospital. Dom Bede came to Moncton, too, and passed a nice day at Résidence Notre Dame with Brother Henry. As Bede spent a period of convalescence there himself last year, people are happy to see him and catch up with him again. New flyers for the monastery have been printed in French and English, a nice job by Bede. The text reads in part: “here (in the monastery), the soul longing to live learns, patiently through a whole lifetime, the secret way of the heart.”

Tuesday 23rd. Brother Stephan went to PEI after Lauds to size up a new tractor. It measured up to his expectations, and will be delivered soon. It will be the biggest tractor around here. It will take over for a similar tractor which the farm got an unusual amount of use out of. Unfortunately, a piece of gravel hit the Kia windshield as Steve was rolling down the highway.

Wednesday 24th. On the farm today, Alphonse cleaned out the calving pen in order to remake the bed. This chore entails digging it out from the hay down then starting over with a load of fresh earth.

Thursday 25th. The monastery well pump gave out earlier this week. The system was switched temporarily to the chicken barn well, which has more water pressure, slightly lower water quality.

Friday 26th. A cold has been going around. Unfortunately, Brother Léo got it and he is our oldest. At the office of Sext today, Dom Bede used the remote to turn off the heaters in the chapel. At least on the north side of choir, this makes a difference acoustically but it was not a test to see how the singing would sound. Rather, Josh was downstairs fixing the tiny leak in the pipe and actual heating was off for a while. With the leak taken care of, our geothermal system seems to be just right for us.

Saturday 27th. We had Chapter this morning, on humility. Dom Bede said that fraternal life is the foundation of humility. Brother Léo reminded us of the saying: pride leaves us 15 minutes after we die. He wondered aloud at our common instinct towards pride, saying maybe the Lord allows it to happen in order to give us the chance to fight against it.

Sunday 28th. Brother Léo went to outpatients in the Miramichi yesterday, because he was having trouble breathing. They got his oxygen level up quickly enough, then set about finding out why he was still wheezing so. Today, he seemed fit as a fiddle to Bede and Glic, so he should be home soon.

Monday 29th. Brother Leo wheeled his walker into the Office of Sext all hail and hearty and took up the life where he had left it off. There were happy faces around him at the hospital, happy faces when the monks saw him back here. When Brother Léo was in his late fifties, the hospital wanted to keep him in a private room for two weeks because of an asthma attack. (The Abbot said, “no.”) Now at 89, with pneumonia plus asthma: two nights on an emergency ward cot. Times change. Hospitals get too full.

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