Friday 1st. Some guests were up and about for Vigils this morning. In Chapter, we wished each other a Happy New Year, and Dom Bede presented us with our choice of calendars. One was ‘home-made’ by Mount Saint Bernard Abbey in England, with nice photos by their Brother Martin. Alec Guinness from ‘Star Wars’ used to visit the monks of MSB in the years leading up to his conversion to Catholicism in 1956.
Saturday 2nd. Father Roger’s mother in Toronto is doing well after heart surgery a few days ago. She is in her mid-nineties.
Sunday 3rd. The long-awaited lunch at the sisters arrived. A super welcome, as usual. It was the 25th anniversary of profession for Sister Anne. Holiday fun abounded as we ate and talked. Sister Kate spoke of a cat that once ran away from our monastery and joined theirs. We did not see this cat but she showed us a new cat, mysterious: she would have to write in to explain this cat again in order for me to share the story with you. Father Innocent says it resembles a racoon.
Monday 4. Josh was by to repair a minor leak in the geothermal system today. Over the next day temperatures fell to below minus twenty for the first time this winter and the geothermal system kept things cozier overall in the house than last winter. A big night tonight: the annual employees’ dinner. It is the only time we see together not only most of our employees (plus their spouses) but also neighbouring farmer Jean-Eudes Chiasson and his wife Holly.
Tuesday 5th. Comments were favorable as to last night’s soirée. All that was missing was the guitar-playing and singing we had had on other such nights. More than a couple of employees are quite musical. The refectory was restored to its pre-fête appearance and setting: two twelve-foot and one eleven-foot tables in a u-shape, no table cloths. Brother Stephan had to bring the farm pick-up truck to the Miramichi today in order for the dealer to replace the truck’s computer module. The newness of Christmas has brought us the sounds of Andrea Bocelli’s new CD, Cinema which we heard again today. Bocelli’s voice and gift seem to grow with time. He is even able to pull off a credible version of Andy Williams’ signature song, Moon River.
Wednesday 6th. In Chapter, we wrapped up our review of the 2015 Visitation Card. Some of the subjects to be discussed over the next while will include the liturgy here, and internal policy/philosophy as regards the internet.
Thursday 7th. A true Acadian, Brother Léo adds a bit of white sugar to his rapée (potato loaf). Lucien and Brother Stephan and the electrician Junior Babin have been working on getting the back-up generator operative. There is electrical work to do within the hut, and also downstairs in our electrical room. NB Power will have to drop by for the latter. On the highway into town, the funeral parlor’s parking lot was full once again. So many funerals. Jo Anne at the Health Clinic confirmed the impression some of us have had: a lot more deaths than usual over the last year.
Friday 8th. Vegetarian Sloppy Joes for lunch. Can you beat that? Back to the MIramichi to pick up the farm truck this morning. The personnel at the dealership turned up the Miramichi charm for us and were laughing away. Dom Bede turned 73 today, handily blowing out the candles on a quadruple-layer cake.
Saturday 9th. Here are the names of our most recent calves: Jasmine, Brownie, December, Sierra, Glitter, Spot, Precious, Reba, Patches, and Tiny.
Sunday 10th. After Mass, John was standing by as Stephan finished the organ piece. Guess he’ll be checking in on the generator shack’s progress. There is now a well-trodden path there through the snow, a few feet from the back of the monastery. Sunday being an apt time for it, Brother Léo’s nieces were by for lunch and are a lively group. This evening Father Clovis’ accordion could be heard in the distance. He was softly playing a version of the hymn we had sung at Eucharistic Benediction.
Monday 11th. Dom Bede made his way to Dieppe, where tomorrow he flies out quite early to our monastery in Georgia. He’s been invited to give the community there some talks about the liturgy. One of their monks thought this would be a good idea, in terms of knowing why to do what in a given celebration. It will be interesting to hear what he makes of their liturgy. He has been to Conyers, Georgia before.
Tuesday 12th. In the basement corridor, a plastic bin remains poised in the middle of the floor. This has been to catch the very few drops from leaks from the ceiling above.
Wednesday 13th. After Lauds Brother Léo learned the health clinic is closed due to weather; he does not have to go for his blood test today, a fact he was not unhappy to hear. Towards 5:15 this morning there was only a little swirl of wind, not cold out, only a hint of snow. This changed into a quite heavy snowfall. Good thing the barn is only a short walk from the monastery. Brother Glic has installed a new stained-glass style covering for the bathroom window there, to replace the curtain. This window overlooks the calving pen in the main barn. Looks good, and offers more light. On the third floor of the monastery, a quiet area, Father Clovis spoke to me about the corridor floor. It is hardwood and would look nice properly restored, he pointed out. Don’t think we’ll be doing that any time soon, but he is right. Most seem to have gotten used to the varnish being worn off a lot of the second floor corridor.
Thursday 14th. Shovelling by starlight this morning, you could here the milk pipeline in the dairy barn going through its cleaning cycle. Brother Stephan has finished a wrought-iron black crucifix for the road sign, based on Brother Michael’s design. This stylized piece looks great and will eventually sit on top of the center of the sign. Debuting spring, 2016.
Friday 15th. Brother Glic cleaned the sensors in the milking parlor. When working properly, the sensors automatically tell the machine when to stop milking. Milk can clog them up and then they don’t realise when the milk flow from a given cow has about ended. In the monastery, a worker was in to tune up the emergency lighting system. When first installed, this worked well, but with time it all dimmed. Here’s hoping we will not need it.
Saturday 16th. A cow calved overnight. In the early hours of the morning, kittens in our barn decided to run about the calving pen to welcome their new friend: this was not to the cows’ liking. Currently three other cows are patiently waiting to calve.
Sunday 17th. A nice group for Mass today, including one of our cooks and her husband. Sunday afternoon is quiet as it can be, with just the sound of traffic in the distance.
Monday 18th. Today was Brother Léo’s long-awaited 89th birthday. Many had noted it in advance, not wanting to miss the chance to reach out to him. He makes 89 look fun. His brother and sister joined him for lunch, and a nice visit and of course he received phone calls, too many to answer. A piece of one of his birthday cakes was set aside for Brother Henry.
Tuesday 19th. Dom Bede returned to the monastery, after a stop to see Brother Henry. At the résidence the main topic of conversation was Msgr. Bohan, Bishop of Regina originally from the Archdiocese of Moncton, who died very recently. Locally, he was at once an impressive and a discrete figure. A happy priest. A big man. At the monastery, the chicken farmers of Canada were by for an internal audit, which meant Father Roger had to pull out all sorts of files for them.
Wednesday 20th. NB Power were by today to install a new meter. This required shutting the power off for a bit this morning. Those of the emergency lights that worked, worked good as ever. In Chapter this morning, Dom Bede told us about his experience in Georgia. The monastery there has an outside cloister, and a ‘green’ cemetery on an adjoining piece of land, offering place for people of all faiths. While at Conyers, Bede shared their life and took part in meetings, when he was not giving talks. He was invited there in order to help sort out the liturgy; as it turned out, the problem was not the liturgy, it was the weekly schedule he said, the which they might re-examine now. Bede announced that our Father Innocent was the community’s new novice master: a promising development. Later in the morning, Brother Léo made his way to the Rogersville health center, where as usual smiling faces awaited him. Looking up on the way back, he said: “Look at all the crows I could be feeding: I could draw quite a few.” Feeding crows is outlawed here because of the proximity of the chicken barns, but was once a pleasure for him.
Thursday 21st. Father Innocent is arranging a room to be used for his office as novice master.
Friday 22nd. In Chapter, Brother Léo asked if the Queen of England had a council, the way Abbots do. She does. This led to a more delicate question from Léo: what does Prince Charles do? Does he have a job? Bede said he has no job, properly speaking. His job is to wait around, making ill-considered remarks from time to time about matters he thinks he understands.
Saturday 23rd. After Mass this morning we all got together to recommence our discussion on the internet. Different monasteries have different policies/attitudes/rules, and here we are considering new guidelines. Currently, our idea is ‘everything in its place’, the internet included.
Sunday 24th. Maurice Gallant, relief cook, has been working away cleaning the big, propane stove in the kitchen. The rest of the kitchen having been more or less redone over the last few decades, the stove is the only reminder of how barren or elemental the scene once looked. Maurice has had to clean the ventilator, too, and for part of this wears a full face mask respirator.
Monday 25th. The emergency generator has been fired up a few times, as work continues toward the goal of being able to maintain the electricity in-house in the event of a power outage. Last winter was a season of outages usually related to storms. This winter, nature has been kinder, so far.
Tuesday 26th. Today is a solemnity for our order, the feast of the three founders of Citeaux: Robert, Albéric and Stephen. One of the hymns we sing today, a sort of ode to Benedictine spirituality, makes reference to an incident in the life of Saint Benedict. The same Benedict who once disdained the world as so much dust, near the end of his life has a vision where he sees the world in one beam of light from heaven, sees it as a “grain of sand that love transfigures” as our hymn has it. Three of our monks made their way to Moncton for the funeral of Msgr. Bohan in Moncton this afternoon, stopping in to the résidence to have lunch with Brother Henry. The funeral was moving, and reflected Daniel Bohan’s life and values.
Wednesday 27th. Dom Bede announced that the phones would be down for a few hours this morning to allow for work hooking up the generator. After Chapter he cycled in to town for the regular meeting of the Rogersville Chamber of Commerce. This afternoon the farm supply people were by with their white van which holds endless merchandise to make milking easier. They only make it by every few months, so it is a big moment. It is also one of the rare moments we see anyone other than our employees in the barn.
Thursday 28th. It was time to service the Kia in Dieppe, which meant additional monastic visitors to Brother Henry. It is inspiring to see the joyful way Henry lives having to be separated from the monastery physically. This evening, we rolled some of the last scenes of Downton Abbey, Season Five. The producers of the show obviously pour their hearts (and a considerable amount of money) into it. Earlier in the week, Dom Bede ran into fellow Englishman Father Lawrence Quinn Morris at the residence. He asked Bede if he had been watching the Season Six broadcast. The answer was no, as we have no television reception.
Friday 29th. Linda our cook went home at mid-day because of the weather forecast. She lives on the coast, some ways away, facing Prince Edward Island. Here, the snow was forecast as minimal, which turned out to be about right. Little slips of paper have appeared at the monks’ entrance to the chapel: the monthly ordo, telling us which hymn to choose for Vigils, Lauds and Vespers on each day of February.
Saturday 30th. We had a follow-up discussion on the use of media such as the internet in the monastery. The Order wants all the monasteries to set up guidelines, and will take the entire topic up again in 2017. Our discussion went well and lasted about an hour. Mutual trust and self-discipline are seen as the key to integrating the new technologies.