March 2016

Tuesday 1st. Our newly-acquired John Deere tractor was delivered today. It is taller and stronger than the Case tractor it is replacing. A retreatant swept and washed the corridor floor in the old novitiate/annex this morning. This had gotten more than dusty and it took a while to get used to seeing it clean again.

Wednesday 2nd. Rémi carried some sand to the front drive using the skid steer. The end of our driveway can become almost like a glacier at times. A new geo-thermal heater was installed in the ‘old novitiate’ corridor this week. This corridor was basically unheated before, which in winter could mean an abrupt change of conditions the moment you set foot there.

Thursday 3rd. Brother Léo accidentally bit into one of his antibiotic pills and was startled by how bitter it was. Vesey Seeds have sent Father Innocent some seeds for the 2016 season. Before long, little tomato shoots will be shooting up.

Friday 4th. Father Clovis returned after a few days away. Our cook left us a note to indicate: “Father Roger’s Lasagna: Tastes Good” at lunch. This was a sample of the huge dishes to be prepared this weekend for monks and guests. It did taste good: super-tomato’y.

Saturday 5th. A group from Prince Edward Island are here for a retreat on “mercy”. As a few are from farms, one is planning to be a beef cattle farmer, and another is studying to be a farm vet they were interested in seeing our farm. The took a walk in the cool wind and sunshine and saw the calves, calving pen, cows at feeding alley, hay loft. They say that P.E.I. soil is not all that much better than N.B.’s

Sunday 6th. We file in, cafeteria style to get our lunch and supper. Across from me this evening, Brother Léo was getting an empty plate when another plate fell and shattered. Did it ever shatter. Brother Léo asked how it happened, but it happened so fast that I was as baffled as he was.

Monday 7th. Father Clovis got some smelts for us and we ate them at lunch. Those who like these little fish, like them a lot. Some eat them bones and all. Our accountant brought in the draft version of last year’s financial statement today. The Abbot and the different managers of the farms review this and give feedback for the final one, which we usually look at together.

Tuesday 8th. The internet connection failed on and off today, not ideal for business especially. Is it the server, or something wrong here? Because of our location, our server options are limited; having access to a service provider such as Rogers can depend on the side of the train track you live on. The Abbot comments: Our provider is Xplornet which is a Canada-wide service providing internet connection to people in rural situations who would not otherwise have access to the internet. It is an overstretched service and there are no competitors in the market.

Wednesday 9th. Father Innocent was away overnight in order to bring to our monastery a West Coast aspirant who’d arrived at the Moncton airport. They arrived in time for lunch. This morning just before dawn the big milk truck rolled in. It is a new one and the lights are pretty; also pretty fancy, with precise backlighting for the tank activating when the driver makes close turns. Good idea: one or two of the old trucks had some pretty big dents.

Thursday 10th. Bonnie the calf was looking smart today in her Warm-Up Animal Jacket. She is a few days old, and will not be faced with winter much longer, from the look of things.

Friday 11th. Lucien is insulating the inside of one of the barn walls. Dom Bede is creating replacement books for choir. Currently we have coil-bound books: one for Vigils, one for Lauds + Vespers, one for the ‘Little Hours’. Some books are gradually falling apart, and monks have become handy at holding pages in place while they sing. The replacement for the Little Hours book will be sort of a little dossier.

Saturday 12th. Father Roger has equipped himself with a penlight, as he prepares to sing the Exultet to mark the lighting of the 2016 Paschal Candle. A chronicle reader has pointed out to me what they believe to be an error: March 5th “a group…are here”. Thank-you, gentle reader. However, according to Fowler’s Modern Usage, British English uses either a singular verb or a plural verb after a collective noun; American English has restricted the choice to singular. Take your pick, at least according to the New Fowler, which considers English to be a world language in the sense that British English is no longer normative elsewhere.

Sunday 13th. With snow receding already, the cemetery looks a little tatty. Brother Henry says it is ‘the happiest graveyard in the world’ and while it does not look unhappy these days, only Adrien has his new, pressure treated wooden cross. All things in time. We saved some daylight for our workers today by putting our watches ahead only after Vigils. That way, we lose no sleep!

Monday 14th. Brother Glic changed the pot for one of the plants in the scriptorium. Looks nice. There are a dozen plants of varying sizes on the big window sills there, and Glic takes good care of these. One of them is a hibiscus, I think. Another is a big vine that grows on a cross-shaped frame. In the chapel, the arrangement of plants the Guimond family brought here for Père Maurice’s funeral is still going strong.

Tuesday 15th. Father Roger and a neighbouring chicken farmer friend met with a feed supplier this week. The goal with this type of farming is to keep barn conditions optimal, nutrition good, bird weight good and it’s an art.

Wednesday 16th. Lenten reading is nearly through for another year. The monks all seem content with the books they chose. Dom Bede is reading a new study of Saint Robert of Molesmes, one of our Order’s founders. The book is in Italian. When Bede is finished, he will write a review of it for a French journal. Brother Léo continues working his way through the Letters of De Rancé: there are enough letters to keep him going for more than a few Lents still, and Léo started reading the letters several years back.

Thursday 17th. Father Graham presided the funeral of his aunt Colleen in Moncton. Here at the monastery, Thursday night videos have become a less regular thing. Interest in / possibility of attending is low. The main reason we began watching videos regularly back in the nineties was that Dom Maurice was less able to give Chapter (taking a Sabbatical for instance) and videos (religious, when quality material was available) were something.

Friday 18th. Cold season has made itself felt here, but Bede, Steve, Roger and Graham have gradually worked their way through. Brother Léo says he is all better now, and can’t remember catching many such bugs in his life. Brett our computer technician was in today, squeezing in work on a few computers in one morning.

Saturday 19th. Brother Stephan attended the funeral of a farmer friend’s father this morning. Dom Bede presented us with some new edition choir books. These include some new English-language material. We should find these books more durable than what we have now.

Sunday 20th. Brother Henry was by for the first time since the end of January. For Palm Sunday, we had store-bought instead of our usual little cedar branches, harvested in our woods months ahead, and stored for the occasion. Henry says he prefers the ones we buy.

Monday 21st. It snowed steadily all day, but with virtually no wind: kind of elegant compared to Old Man Winter’s shenanigans of last year. A friend was by this morning, looking for one of the palms blessed at Mass here on Sunday. Because of the snow, we had to have recourse to the outside floodlight to light up the Stained Glass Blessed Virgin as we sang the Salve Regina at Compline. Yesterday and before then, the March sunlight was sufficient.

Tuesday 22nd. We have our own gas pump but it ran out today so we filled up the Kia at the Rogersville Shell. Friendly town: smiles and quiet laughter there. Brother Stephan made his way over to Petitcodiac, NB today for a farmers meeting. Also today, we received flowers for the chapel for Easter, a gift from our friend John: white, yellow and (nicest of all perhaps for our white chapel) blue hydrangeas.

Wednesday 23rd. There are special antiphons for the Little Day Hours during Holy Week. Guests have begun arriving. It is a more peaceful time than usual and a more busy one, too. We are hoping that weather will not make travel difficult for those guests yet to arrive.

Thursday 24th. After Terce we had an important singing practice along with instructions for two big celebrations now imminent: Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Commemoration of Our Lord’s Passion. The practice went on for a while, but the fellows did not grumble.

Friday 25th. Robert Pichette, who wrote our history, is here. He mentioned that he is being received into France’s Légion d’Honneur this week, at the consulate in Moncton. Spending Holy Week here is a bit of a homecoming for him, as he lived in the cloister while working on the book ‘Il est heureux que nous sommes ici.’

Saturday 26th. Practice #2 took place after Terce, this one just for tomorrow’s Vigil Mass. As the usual concerns were raised about getting the Easter fire (made outside the chapel) right and getting some but not too much fire/smoke inside, Bede said there are always problems with the Paschal Fire. Somewhat to my surprise he mentioned that at Mount Saint Bernard Monastery in England, a candle once exploded, while another Easter there a burning branch from a tree fell on the Abbot at this crucial starting point to the ceremony. Can any of this chronicle’s readers who are Priests top that?

Sunday 27th. The Paschal Vigil got off to a good start at 4:30 AM. It was a happy Bede who, despite a refreshing breeze, succeeded in lighting a little candle from the new fire outside the red doors, then lighting the Paschal Candle inside on the first go. This year, eight people joined us for our celebration. As that is not a lot, the celebration had a bit of an intimate feel to it. Rogersville, Moncton, Halifax, Miramichi, Vancouver and Antigonish were their starting points prior to coming here.

The chapel on Easter Sunday with Br. Glic, novice.
Monday 28th. In good spirits, Brother Glic began his retreat in preparation for first vows, which will take place Sunday morning. This is a rare break for him from milking. Glic normally milks six afternoons a week. Steve for his part milks six mornings a week. At table, Easter treats are present, with still more arriving as gifts. Cheese is good but once you start in on the Gorgonzola it’s not always easy to stop.

Tuesday 29th. Monks prepare their breakfast each their own way. Recently someone suggested I try toast with: peanut butter, jam, and bits of Gorgonzola cheese. I demurred; maybe it would have been good. Voices could be heard inside the elevator control room in the basement this morning. Preparations are underway for the hookup for our backup generator this week. It will involve the power company switching us off altogether for a few hours.

Wednesday 30th. Someone from town repaired the tiny crack to the Kia front windshield today. At Mass and in the guest house we have two good friend-Priests with us, one from Bathurst NB, the other from Saint Louis, P.E.I.

Thursday 31st. Brother Stephan got away at 5 A.M. for a brief bit of family time in Nova Scotia, where his family lived when they moved to Cape Breton from the States. NB Power came by in their white ladder truck, the sign that our back-up generator was at the next-to-final stage of hook-up. To enable this, our power was cut off for seven and a half hours today, blinking back on just in time for the five minutes before Vespers bell. This evening I heard the first robin’s song of 2016. This Robin was not just singing, but swinging, adding riffs I don’t remember hearing from robins previously. Maybe she’d been listening to Bill Evans over the winter.

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