Fr. John's Memoir - Chapter 2

Early Years at St. Anselm’s Priory: 1947-1955
by M. John Farrelly, O.S.B.

I entered St. Anselm’s Priory on July 8, 1947, the feast of St. Thomas More. St. Anselm’s was a small Priory of the English Benedictine Congregation. We consider Thomas Verner Moore to be our main founder. Moore (1877-1969) became a Paulist and after his priestly ordination studied for a doctorate in psychology, partly under Wundt in Germany, and then taught this at the Catholic University of America. Still later he was allowed to study medicine and psychiatry in Germany and then at Johns Hopkins, earning his medical degree before the First World War. In that war he served with the army in France as a psychiatrist in the medical corps, but with the understanding that he could also minister to soldiers as a chaplain. Back at the Catholic University after the war, he taught once more and resumed his work at a psychiatric clinic for children he had established at Providence Hospital.

During his studies in Europe before the war he had visited Beuron, a Benedictine abbey and had taken a retreat at the Carthusian monastery in London, the Charterhouse. These made a deep t impression on him, and in 1919 he applied to the English Benedictine monastery Downside, for entrance. He was turned down because of a previous episode of tuberculosis, but later he became interested in starting a Benedictine community in Washington D.C. with other men who would be interested in combining Benedictine life with advanced research and education, seeking to overcome the conflict between science and theology. After persistent efforts, he and several other men found a monastery of the English Benedictine Congregation that would be willing to sponsor such a project, St. Benedict’s Abbey on Loch Ness in Scotland. He looked to the English Benedictine Congregation rather than to closer American congregations of Benedictines because at that time the EBC gave greater priority to the liturgy and to scholarship than American Benedictines did. With four other men he went to Fort Augustus for a novitiate in 1923, and returned from there to Washington D.C. with some of their monks to establish monastic life on a plot of about 40 acres, bought with the help of benefactors from three farmers, about a mile from the university in northeast Washington.

Fr. Thomas and others in the early community sought to live the Benedictine balance of the contemplative and active life, taught at the Catholic University and Trinity College, wrote scholarly works, gave retreats and established a few groups of Benedictine Oblates, lay people who were attracted to Benedictine spirituality and sought to integrate it into their own lives as appropriate. The community started a small boys’ highschool in 1942. In 1947, Moore reached the compulsory retirement age for professors at the Catholic University, and so sought to fulfill his earlier ambition of entering the Carthusians, now in Spain. He was Prior of St. Anselm’s at the time, and so the Abbot of Fort Augustus sent a replacement for him in November 1946 as Prior, Fr. Alban Boultwood, who was to be my prior and novice master.

This was a new world for me. On the day I arrived, I was given the habit of a postulant (tunic and scapular but not the hood) and was included in the program for the novices. Most of the novices at that point were from our sister priory, Portsmouth Priory in Rhode Island, also founded by Fort Augustus; but in the course of that year other young men entered St. Anselm’s so that our novitiate was composed of some ten or twelve novices, of whom I was the youngest. I remember that at the first recreation I had with the novices I nervously searched out a topic of conversation and asked whether any of them had seen any UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects) that were in the news at that time. Much in those early days were a swirl, with the unexpected happening all the time. Three days after I entered, the community celebrated the feast of St. Benedict (July 11) by festal Vespers and a festal meal outside the refectory with Benedictines studying at the nearby Catholic University as our guests. And I was asked to draw beer from a cask for them.

A few months after entering St. Anselm’s I officially entered the novitiate by being ‘clothed’ as a novice at the first Vespers of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14), receiving the cowl of Fr. Thomas Verner Moore. This took place toward the end of the community’s seven day annual retreat preached that year by a Jesuit who struck me by his simplicity and his saintliness. I went to confession to him and with tears confessed my sins.

The novitiate schedule was full and very defined, starting with the community rising at 4:30 a.m. We then prayed the Liturgy of the Hours designated for that time of day, a collection of psalms and readings called Matins and Lauds. We novices served the private masses of the priests, attended the community’s Prime (one of the Liturgical ‘Hours’), had breakfast, sang Conventual Mass in Gregorian chant and then the ‘little hours’ (Terse, Sext and None). All this was in Latin, and was bunched together, whereas it would have been dispersed throughout the day in an earlier period of monastic life. Then when most of the community would go to teach in our school or the University, we novices would have a half hour of meditation, a conference on the Rule of St. Benedict given by Fr. Prior who relied much on Abbot Paul Delatte’s commentary on the Rule, some free time for spiritual reading, lunch, recreation, work for a couple of hours, the rosary and another conference somewhere in the day from Fr. Anselm Strittmatter, usually on some father of the Church, particularly Augustine, or on Latin or the liturgy, but always peppered with his sometime caustic humor. Vespers were at 6 p.m., followed by dinner, recreation, Compline and the Greater Silence. One afternoon a week Fr. Prior or Fr. Anselm would usually take us on a walk or a trip to a museum. At times we would have a day picnic or go swimming. One time our group was once denied entrance to a swimming area because one of the Portsmouth novices was Jewish. – There was a good deal of laughter as well as an intense introduction to Benedictine life and spirituality.

I found the life to be a rich feast for the spirit. The practical and balanced organization of the day according to the Rule of St. Benedict (RB) was a discipline that was very helpful, a structure like a backbone. One factor that fed my spirit and sustained me was my main reading for that year, the 20th century Irish Benedictine, Columbia Marmion’s book, Christ the Ideal of the Monk, a classic book on spirituality that influenced very many men and women religious of that period. This book by Marmion, since beatified, was Scripture based, and offered a very compelling portrait of Christ in prayer, in love for others, in poverty, in obedience to the Father, in willing sacrifice to be faithful to his mission, etc. I read this book very carefully and took copious notes on it. This image of Christ moved me greatly and became what I strove for, my ideal. On the Feast of the Transfiguration during my novitiate, a passage from St. Paul read at mass that day seemed to me a program for life:

[T]he Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Cor 17-18).

But I was also fascinated by other books, particularly the life of St. Thomas More by R. Chambers and St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography, both saints very human and very attractive, people of prayer and ministry. Also, though I may have read these books in the years immediately after the novitiate, R. Guardini’s, The Lord, and Dietrich von Hildenbrand’s, The Transformation of the Self, were enlightening and convincing.

This life was very rewarding and very intense, but it was not without its costs. I remember being scarcely able to drag myself out of bed at 4:30 in the morning, wondering whether I could sustain the routine through many years, virtually falling asleep while standing and praying the rosary following afternoon work, and at times being very lonely for family. Most of the other novices were congenial, but I had special difficulty with one who was much older than I, who was on his third try as a novice and who derided the pious talk of us other novices. I spoke with the novice just senior to myself, Br. Joseph, about this, and he suggested that I pray for this difficult novice each day, which I did – but the problem continued. A large part of my problem was my very intensity; I tried to be holy right away and I washed and waxed floors as though this was the most important thing in the world.

My profession of religious vows as a Benedictine took place at Conventual Mass on Sunday the19th of September, 1948. It would normally have been on the14th, a year after my entrance into the novitiate; but since St. Anselm’s was a dependent priory of Fort Augustus, their community as well as ours had to vote on whether to accept a novice for simple vows, that is, vows for three years, and their response was delayed. I was enthusiastic in taking these vows, sure it was the way God had called me. In my occasional journal for that day I quoted St. Augustine, “Man is a sacrifice sworn to God in as much as he is dead to the world so that he may live for God” (City of God, Bk 10, ch. 6). In my journal during the months ahead I show that I continued to be supported by a strong sense of God’s presence in prayer and my life in general.

Having completed the novitiate prescribed by Canon Law, I was sent to the Catholic University to begin studies leading to the priesthood. This started with two years of philosophy. My earlier study of philosophy at St. Louis University was not accepted (except for logic), probably because it was not as thorough as that stipulated for future priests, so I entered the priesthood tract for philosophy at the University with some 30 seminarians in my class, many of these students for the diocesan priesthood from around the country and others from religious orders that had houses of studies near the University. This was certainly a return to a somewhat larger world than our little novitiate, where news of the outside world had been severely limited.

Our main textbook was Joseph Gredt, O.S.B., Elementa Philosophiae Aristotelico-Thomisticae, 2 vols., (8th ed., Freiburg, Herder, 1946). This covered formal and material logic, natural philosophy, philosophical psychology, metaphysics and ethics. Gredt had taught for many years at the Benedictine theology school in Rome, San Anselmo; and among such textbooks his had much to commend them. They showed the advance of studies of Thomas over the previous half century and accepted the high probability of evolution. But they were textbooks where each section began with a thesis and then a proof, corollaries, and an answer to objections. In Rome, Gredt was said to grade students on how exactly they could repeat what his book said, so it was not a program that encouraged personal engagement and evaluation. Our professors did not seem plagued by any philosophical doubts. Our main teacher was Fr. Felix Alluntis, a Basque Franciscan who was exiled from Spain because he was a persona non grata to Franco. He taught in Latin, had a dry sense of humor, and warned that if we did not do well in exams we would have to go back to the farm. We also had courses in the history of philosophy and, outside our usual corps of priest professors, courses in physics, biology and psychology where there seemed to be more sense of exploration.

My interest in philosophy was rekindled, though I recognized that in our seminary setting evidence that raised questions for theses taught us was not welcomed. In a way I still do not understand fully, in those two years of philosophy I became somewhat unsettled; and the tension between my love of the Benedictine charism and life and my love of philosophy was part of it. My devotion to prayer did not flag, but my surface personality changed. Though I learned much from members of my community, and particularly Fr. Alban, our Prior and novice master, I initially found a role model of the monk I would like to be in a priest staying with us while he was getting a doctorate in theology at the Catholic University, Fr. Oligario Purcell, from Montserrat Abbey in Spain. He had a prayerful serenity about him, a simplicity and yet a reserve and a dignity that was quite winning. He was an intellectual and raised questions, e.g., about the morality of American football and boxing. During my novitiate and the following year, I was more introverted than not. But in the summer of 1949 another visiting monk, Fr. Victor Farwell, from Downside Abbey in England was staying with us, once more a man with a winning simplicity but a more extroverted person, not an intellectual. And I veered in this direction so much that a fellow Junior (as those of us in simple vows were called) remarked on it in a somewhat questioning way, as though I might be wrong in what spiritual growth was all about. I went to Fr. Victor for spiritual direction in the summer of 1949, and he gave me his direct and simple recipe for Benedictine life, remarking that each of us is to be himself. Not everyone is to be a Catherine of Siena. This was an emphasis I do not recall having heard so explicitly earlier.

Toward the end of that year or very early the next, I was agitated by the question whether I should try to go on for further studies in philosophy with the hope of eventually teaching it. It preoccupied me quite a bit, and I recall saying emphatically to myself at one point that I would try this. Perhaps this was to relieve the uncertainty or ambiguity I felt, and it was in a way consistent with the reason I had entered St. Anselm’s. But I was attacked by a period of scruples for an extended period so much so that it affected my ability to study. I fully revealed this to Fr. Prior who showed great patience and was a real help. But I did not find his answer wholly satisfying, because it was basically that as a monk you should do what your superior tells you. Leave it there. As the following will show, this answer of his did not come from any lack of consideration of an individual’s gifts and potential. – At one point during this period I was asked to wake the community up at 4:30 a.m., but out of anxiety I misread my clock and woke them up at 12:20 a.m.! When I knocked at Fr. Prior’s room, he soon rushed out and said “What are you doing, you idiot!” I was never asked to wake the community again.

After this onset of scruples, my primary disposition was not the eager searching to be perfect soon but rather a sense that I had somehow failed and was uncertain of the Lord’s disposition toward me and sought to make reparation and win back my previous reassuring sense of God’s presence and relation with the Lord.

As I completed my undergraduate studies in 1950, I asked permission to start working for a masters in philosophy during summer school while I was studying theology during the academic year, and I was given it. Also, on my own I started using my spare time to reflect and write on the question of how the ideal of knowledge of God offered me by my Benedictine heritage was related to that offered me by the scholastic philosophy I was studying. The one held that knowledge of God came through faith, love and prayer and was affective more than intellectual. The other was more an intellectual, partial understanding of God as he could be known through his creation. How are the will and the intellect mutually related in our knowledge of being and of God? I had read a good deal of E. Gilson on Thomas Aquinas’s philosophy and now also read some writings of J. Maritain, P. Rousselot and others on this issue. It was an important personal issue for me as well as an issue among a number of Catholic philosophers. As I continued during the following summers to take philosophy courses I began my master’s dissertation under the direction of Father Charles Hart, the university’s most alive and creative philosophy professor in my estimation. The theme I chose was Thomas’s teaching on the transcendentals: the good, true and beautiful. And while I wrote this, I also wrote an article giving the results of my research on the interrelation of the intellect and will in knowledge. I called this “Existence, the Intellect and the Will.” In it I presented what I considered an authentic development of Thomas’s views, showing that the good is associated by him with perfection or the ‘to be’ or esse of a being, that the human person’s esse is the immediate internal object of the will, and is present to the will through the agent intellect, while our intellectual knowledge presents to the will that which is loved and the way to act. I had some suggestions from my best theology professor, Fr. Eugene Burke, on how to construct this article, and in 1953 submitted it to The New Scholasticism, whose editor initially turned it down but accepted it after I answered his difficulties. It was published in 1955.

In the fall of 1950 I started a four years program in theology at the University leading to an STL (Sacrae theologiae licentia). It was a program heavy with courses in Scripture, patristics, doctrinal theology, moral theology, Church history, canon law, catechetics, Hebrew, Greek, liturgy and ministry. My major interest was in doctrinal theology, and I found this much richer than philosophy. My favorite professor was Fr. Eugene Burke, a Paulist, because of the content of his courses (The One and Triune God, Grace), his asides and his style. Though some of our Scripture professors were creative, it was a conservative period in theology. Pope Pius XII’s encyclical, Humani generis, was promulgated in 1950. In it he was critical of a movement in Europe called nouvelle théologie that sought to get beyond scholastic theology, particularly the early modern theology that made an excessive division between the natural and the supernatural, to embrace the riches of the Fathers of the Church and thus point out a certain relativity in the conceptuality used by scholasticism. We had one professor, Fr. Joseph Fenton, who taught ecclesiology, was a good friend of the very conservative Cardinal Octaviani, and happily claimed that in the previous 15 years he had always written articles correcting theologians, never praising any of them. Ecumenism was not in the air. And one of our professors of moral theology who had a cherubic face, Fr. Francis Connell, C.SS.R., obviously thought that all the serious moral issues had been adequately solved. These two theologians, good and holy priests, contested Fr. John Courtney Murray, S.J.’s views advocating freedom of religion, somewhat on the United States’s model, even in a country that was Catholic. Murray and a couple of other theologians were not allowed to lecture on the campus of the Catholic University.

A younger brother of mine, Francis, joined our community in 1949 and was with us for some years, but was not accepted for final vows, so left, married, became a psychiatric social worker and later developed his own style of therapy, called Provocative Therapy. When I was due for final vows in 1951 the community voted, as usual, and decided I did not have a vocation to St. Anselm’s. This was a period in which there was a good deal of conformism, and from some comments relayed to me I gathered that I did not conform enough to suit some elder members of the community, though no doubt other issues were involved. I was less affected personally by this refusal than I might have been. Fr. Prior did not agree with the community’s evaluation of me, and he had the authority to renew my vows, which he did for a two year period. We juniors had periods of vacation during the summer, usually taken at a house in the country given us in West Virginia. And once, Francis and I were allowed to visit our home in St. Louis – for the wedding of my older brother William and Patricia Benoist in May, 1953, a very enjoyable occasion.

That September the community once more voted on whether to allow me to proceed to final vows, and once more turned me down. Fr. J.C. Murray had just given us our community retreat, which was very well received. (One of our older monks said to me after the retreat: “So soon old, so late smart!”) Fr. Prior asked Fr. Murray to come and chat with me and give him his opinion whether I had a vocation. Fr. Murray concurred with him that I had, and so Fr. Prior renewed my vows for one more year.

The Benedictine life at St. Anselm’s, with its liturgical prayer, its meditation, spiritual reading and community, continued to sustain me. During these years I read a good deal of Scripture, particularly the prophetic books with short commentaries as well as, among other books, St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, Aelred Graham, Catholicism and the Modern World and The Love of God, and , to understand myself better, Thomas Verner Moore, The Driving Forces of Human Nature and their Adjustment. On October 3, (now the memorial of Blessed Columba Marmion) 1953, I wrote the following:

Insights God has given me recently. It is not so much how many thoughts or insights we have that determines our growth – but how well we assimilate and digest what insights are given us. Need for reflection. He gave me insight again into the central nature and purpose of my life – that this cannot be confined to any particular activity such as study – but must consist in my relation to God: “Je m’occupai enterieurment et uniquement á m’unir de plus en plus á Dieu sachant que le reste me serait par surcroit.”

He also has given me some insight into the relation between my particular avocation and this central purpose of my life. For one thing I must always hold myself in readiness to change what I am doing. For another I should not think that choice of such an avocation – mission – is arbitrary on my part and a withdrawal from divine providence because it is the object of a choice of mine, and the reason is that God’s law is not only the direction printed in books but his direction printed within me by my nature and the uniqueness of my own particular being, talents, and developments, realizations, etc. He has shown me that this involves painful choices, patience, assiduous (Mystici Corporis) yet temperate labor and the humility involved in restricting my efforts.

He has shown me that I am too busy about many things. He has shown me also recently the need of a more constant looking at HIM and not myself. How very important this is!

He has shown me that the modality of his relationship with a group -e.g. Jewish Kingdom – and individual changes with the development of that person or group. It becomes – seemingly – progressively more natural – in fact one’s later religious life lacks so much of the rather extraordinary elements of one’s first entrance into religion – it is more spiritual, more calm, less apparent to oneself and to others, more widening.

He has shown me how our love for our brother should be implemented in practice – by respect, affection, sympathy and poise . . . the necessity of maturity.

He has shown me that real trust in God still demands that I use all my powers to know and respond consistently to the truth.

This realization was a great gift, and circumstances showed how much I needed it. In the year preceding the above journal entry I have jottings reflecting a good deal of discouragement and even depression, and many “perhaps, perhaps, perhaps” about decisions regarding the future. I would experience discouragement, particularly at times of tiredness. I reflected that initially I had been all for imitating Christ, but events showed that I had not taken into account my own human frailty. Also there were times when after a day at a picnic with others, I would feel that much of talk had been useless and distracting chatter, and not much of it substantive. After the October 1953 journal entry, I have notes about a conversation during a confession with a priest at St. Anselm’s, not my regular confessor, in which I told him that “frequently in the past I have felt that there was a painful dichotomy between my desire to lead a prayerful life, a more contemplative life . . . and yet the necessity of developing the social virtues, such as courtesy, conversational small talk,” etc. I had thought that this issue was not now as strong, but he advised me to think seriously about transferring to a more contemplative monastic community before taking final vows. In my written reflection on that conversation, I wrote that his reaction was something I did not expect at all, that I had grown fond of St. Anselm’s and individuals within it, and that, “The degree of union with God or saintliness is not the amount of time given to prayer, nor is [it] the rigor of the life, nor the absence of external occupations but it is concretely how fully did one comply with the Divine Will. . . God wants obedience rather than sacrifice . . .”.. I have notes of December of 1953 recounting some advice from Fr. Prior: “You know you tend to be rather brusque in your manner.” He advised courtesy in arguments, smiling more often, being cheerful, not being singular, abstracted or frowning so much, not bearing resentment, being smoother in contacts with others. Don’t lose your own personality or try to become some else; give yourself to prayer of the will. Much of this advice was on target, but I had not felt that I was resentful of the community’s voting against me.

During the following year, I find no journal entries on my work for my comprehensive exams for the STL or my passing them and receiving the degree. But that did consume a great deal of time, and I probably tired myself excessively by my studies. I enjoyed the project of trying to synthesize the theological work I had done over the past four years. As time drew near for the question of my permanent vows to come up for the community and myself for the final time, I filled many pages with pros and cons for going on to take these at St. Anselm’s, or for other alternatives – a more contemplative life, a more active religious life, or the life of a layman. Virtually always my conclusion was that St. Anselm’s was the life for me. But the question would recur and I would fill more pages. When, according to protocol, the monastic council interviewed me before the community voted on my request for permanent vows, one of the priests asked me, “If you are turned down, what will you do?” I said that I would go to Notre Dame, get a doctorate in philosophy and teach that.

Because of a change in the constitutions of the EBC Fr. Prior no longer had the authority to renew my temporary vows if the community voted against me. But this time, the community voted to allow me to go ahead and take final vows for St. Anselm’s.

But once I was accepted by the community chapter, all sorts of doubts erupted in me. Why was this? I do not think it was primarily because I thought I had something to offer in philosophy, while in religious life my life would be determined by others, though that may have been part of it. Perhaps it was that I wanted more certainty. The decision to go on and take the vows was in part dependent on my judgment that I was reading the “signs of the times” aright and that this was God’s will, and yet I felt how unsure my judgment was. Whenever I returned to meditation, these doubts subsided and my divided mind was at peace with going forward. It was the surface of myself that was agitated, and when I, through God’s grace and prayer, got beneath this I was once more reassured and at peace. Perhaps this is the difference between the surrender of faith and the stages of justification of such faith that lead up to it. On the day itself of my final vows (Sept. 19) I joyously gave myself wholly to the Lord. But for months these doubts would rear their head once more. I remember that when I was visiting my brother Tommy, now living with the Cistercian Abbey in Utah where he had been sent in 1947 with other monks from Gethsemani to establish a new monastery, in February after my ordination to the priesthood, I told him that I did not know whether God had actually called me to take final vows at St. Anselm’s. He said that I had thought God did call me, and that was the important thing. In retrospect, there is no question but this was God’s call for me. I owe great praise and thanks that God brought me through this period of indecision to take this step; I could have been fixated on surface concerns to the extent of withdrawing at the last moment.

Shortly after my final vows I was ordained to what were called “the minor orders,” and then to the diaconate. Looking forward to ordination to the priesthood I wrote:

You wish to prepare as well as possible for your ordination, so that you will be worthy of this great gift of God and will receive in the most fruitful possible manner possible the graces that are conferred through the reception of that sacrament, and also for the purpose of preparing yourself for a fruitful ministry.
One most effective way to prepare for this, and something which will show God most effectively your good will and prudence is to overcome your frequent anxiety , discouragement, sadness and fear of the future. . . .
Recognize that these dispositions (a) are frequently unjustified, for you have been given great graces by God and been given signs of his love for you, (b) that they solve nothing . . . , (c) that those who seek union with God must believe and hope – have confidence in his providence and love . . .
The most effective way of overcoming this sickness is to develop a more positive attitude of mind; look to the gift God has given you and develop that life which the circumstances of your life allow for love of God .

I did not think that this problem was unique to me as the following, which I wrote about the same time, shows:

One of the most prevalent mental attitudes of our day, in fact perhaps the distinctive attitude of our day, is this feeling of insecurity, the precariousness of human existence even in the midst of all the scientific advances that were supposed to obviate everything like human suffering, chance, the unexpected event, the unforeseen, the disruptive influence from outside the material world, etc. through the progressively perfecting of man’s control over nature by the use of science. The frequency of automobile accidents, of train accidents, and above all of airplane accidents, the dependence of the people on the capitalistic system of our day . . . but most of all the state of unrest in the world between the Communist world and the non-Communist world with its constant threat of imminent war, a war in which the atomic and hydrogen bombs would be showered down on cities, . . . the enemies from without and the enemies within the state – all of this presents to the people of today a cause of great anxiety and insecurity. And the insecurity comes also from the very complexity of life today where individuals are called upon to adapt themselves to such a variety of changing circumstances . . .
And with the growing materialism of today and the weakening of faith in God and his Providence the constantly present possibility that all the accomplishments of man will be cut short and destroyed, the uncertainty of completing any task or great enterprise, the precariousness of all human values and productions – all this takes on a seriousness and a magnitude which casts a deep gloom of fear upon people.
This attitude that is present in public life is also present in private life, this climate that holds the world in its grip, also has seeped into the minds and hearts of many Christians and Catholics.

On February 5, 1955 I was ordained priest in the crypt of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of the Catholic University of America with about 30 other seminarians from various religious orders. My sister Elizabeth and brother Francis attended my ordination. Following the ordination, I went to my family in St. Louis to offer my first mass and have a reception held by my father, who was proud of his priest son, for relatives and friends – a very joyous occasion. And I flew to Utah to visit my brother who had been ordained priest in 1953. This was the first time I had seen him since early 1947, and in spite of our very differing monastic lives we had much to share. On the way back I stopped in Denver to see my uncle, Fr. Mark Gross, S.J., who had taught English literature in Regis University for many years and was now retired. He had not responded to my earlier letters but was happy to see me and showed me St. Augustine’s commentary on the psalms that he was reading. Back in St. Louis I visited many relatives and friends who were very kind to me, and offered masses at St. Louis University High School and City House, a school run by the Religious of the Sacred Heart. My cousin, Francis Gross, a Jesuit, told me that if I had much more vacation I would end up in a hospital. Meeting all those people and being, as it were, on display brought with it a good deal of tension. After a few weeks I was relieved to return to St. Anselm’s.

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