Fr. John's Memoir - Chapter 4
1962-1972: A Transformative Decade
by M. John Farrelly, O.S.B.
This decade was transformative for both the Church and our country. The Second Vatican Council began its first of four sessions in October of 1962. It was followed by dramatic changes in the liturgy and in religious and priestly life as well as in the life of the laity. For the country, it was a traumatic decade: the assassination of President Kennedy, the civil rights movement and laws erasing much discrimination against blacks in our country, the counter-cultural movement, the later assassination of Martin Luther King and city riots of 1968, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, and the Vietnam War. – It also was transformative for my religious community and for me – a very difficult decade for both my community and me. It is amazing now to me that the larger events of Church and society seldom intrude on my journals during these years; the journals are for the most part my attempts to understand and cope with my own spiritual problems and the work I was engaged in. For me this period was split by some months in 1966 and in 1967 when I received permission to be away from the Abbey for a few months because I felt the need of relief from intellectual work.
1. A New Orientation:1962-1966
In the new school year, I was asked to teach an additional course in our high school, one for the 2nd form (8th grade) on the Sacraments. I enjoyed the kids, but felt that teaching them was like trying to keep a dozen eels together with my bare hands. In my journal for my 35th birthday (October 20th) I wrote:
This evening [while] reading a series of phrases on what we should love I was actually struck with a bit of surprise to read, “We will love our times, our community, our technical skills, our art, our sport, our world.” By reflection on this bit of surprise, I can see that I tend to think that I should not enjoy my philosophical and theological work. . . . If I don’t enjoy it, that is assurance I do it for supernatural love; if I do enjoy it I am doing it from natural love of a creature. I seem not to instinctively recognize that . . . a work I enjoy doing can be as effectively a sign of love of God or directed to him as one I dislike. . . . The Blessed Virgin giving birth to and raising Christ is the great example and model here. My difficulty is shared by the modern world – and hence its rejection of God !!!
Early in 1963 I began to wonder what my next writing project should be. The first semester of that academic year I was teaching a theology course on “The One God,” and I began seriously to consider the possibility of writing a book on our human and Christian knowledge of God, within the contrast between Thomists and the Augustinians on this issue. This question was related to what I had addressed in my first published article in 1955. After speaking of this with my spiritual director, I asked Fr. Abbot whether I might write a book on this question, estimating that it would take me two years with the other work I was doing. And at the same time I asked whether I could be relieved next academic year of the extra course I had taken on in the high school in 1962. He gave me permission to pursue this project, but was initially unhappy that I asked to be relieved of this course in the high school. He did finally and kindly say he would ask the headmaster whether they could relieve me of this course, and later gave me permission for this.
I asked for permission for this project on Wednesday of the second week of Lent, where, I note in my journal, the gospel account is of the mother of James and John asking the Lord that her sons would sit on his right and left when he came into his kingdom. And he asked these disciples, “Potestis bibere calicem, quem ego bibiturus sum?” (“Can you drink the cup which I am to drink?”, Mt 20:22). I wrote: “There could be no clearer proof that I asked for the sufferings involved in writing this book than the difficulty I have had and gone through to get permission. . . . Domine, adjuva me!” After getting these permissions, I began to wonder whether I should not rather first of all try to write a book on what theologians then generally called Apologetics. I wrote, “There is a serious need on the part of Catholic theologians to have an Apologetics more relevant to the problems of today, and with a method better than that of current books.” On the feast of the Annunciation I spoke about this with my spiritual director, also a theologian, who agreed with me but noted that this field or subject “is a bottomless pit, and one should just set a modest goal and try to do that.” That evening I read in Blessed Henry Suso, a fourteenth century German mystic:
A certain man began a project which he intended to complete for the honor of God. Someone asked him whether he was sure of God’s will in the matter. He answered: “No, it is better for me not to have this certainty, because self-love would derive too much spiritual satisfaction from this knowledge. Uncertainty is a boon for me.
I asked Fr. Abbot whether I could adopt this project rather than the one I had earlier mentioned to him, and he was agreeable. I note in my journal, “In many ways I should thank God for having such a considerate superior.”
In May I started reading and writing what I considered the first part of this book, namely the problem. This was constituted by the Church’s teaching on our knowledge of God, and an attempt to understand the major modern difficulties against this position – those that come from modern science and philosophies and from Protestant theologians. My greatest difficulties in this work were in my efforts to understand Hegel and some prominent 20th century philosophers such as Wittgenstein, Husserl, and Heidegger; but I put a great deal of effort into this work and, with the help of a number of historians of modern philosophy, and frequently feeling that I was well over my head in water, had a draft of this written up in a double-spaced typewritten draft of over 200 pages in the fall of 1963. The purpose of this was to make the defense of the foundations of the faith relevant to the problems of our time. As I wrote in my journal (July 7):
According to many, the development of modern society, knowledge, culture tells against the existence of God and man’s religious relation to him. It gives a substitute objective in life, source of strength, explanation of the world and of man, and it shows that man cannot reach God as understood by the Church through the powers of intellect . . . on basis of the external world. I think I have to show the basis for my saying that such is the modern objection to the Church, and to show the reasons for this – in the development of the present situation . . . and from specific sources – e.g. psychology, science, development of philosophy.
I did experience this work as a bottomless pit, and I did have recurring doubts that the choice of this project, with all of its difficulties, really came from God; but again and again I renewed my trust it did come from him and persevered in the work. As I wrote (August 17), “If out of anxieties I did not do this [i.e. persevere] with my whole heart, I would never do anything further. – I would never write another book, because every time I would be faced with the same uncertainties and the same slowness of spirit that results from preoccupation with them.”
Part of this work I did during my vacation in St. Louis, during which I also attended my first convention of the Catholic Theological Society of America, held there that year. – As I was waiting at Lambert Field Airport to return to D.C. after vacation that summer, a middle aged St. Louis lawyer chatted with me. As I wrote my father that Christmas: “When I mentioned that you were an oil prospector, he commented that that was a big step to take from an oil prospector to a priest. My answer was that you and I have one thing in common, and that is that we both put a hell of a lot in one hole!” I must have expressed this in a way that conveyed some doubts on my part whether there was anything at the bottom of my hole because this man put an arm around my shoulders and laughed. That summer I also attended Martin Luther King’s address, “I have a Dream,” on the mall in Washington with some members of my community and my brother David who came to Washington for the event.
Before the new academic year, our community had its annual week long retreat with its usual three conferences a day from Fr. Eric McDermott, S. J.- an exceptional retreat master. These periods each year were a great help in my getting in deeper touch with God and myself and in reordering my priorities that tended to drift toward an imbalance on the side of preoccupation with work, though I was always faithful to prayer. In this period I felt that I should finish this projected book within two years, because that is the time I said it would take to write – and the first part had expanded more than I had anticipated. – In November of that year the nation was shocked and saddened by the assassination of President Kennedy.
In 1964 I gave what I had written so far for evaluation to Dr. Louis Dupré, a prominent historian of modern philosophy and a friend of our community, who very kindly read it for me and told me that it was satisfactory, while he made some suggestions which I accepted, revising the manuscript in the next year. Meanwhile, I started reflecting on and preparing a response to modern objections to belief in the existence of God, beginning with Scripture. In this area, I spent a good deal of time on the Wisdom literature, part of which was a dialogue with Hellenism. And I then gave this to Fr. Roland Murphy, O. Carm., who very kindly evaluated it for me. He told me that I could not write on Wisdom literature unless I knew German. So in the summer of 1964 I took an intensive course in German at the Catholic University, following this up by another course during the 1964-1965 academic year.
There were breaks in all of this work. One of these was a visit by my brother Tommy from Holy Trinity Abbey in Utah in February 1964. He had received permission from his community and from the Holy See to join Fr. Ya’aqov Willebrands, a Cistercian from Holland, in Israel to help him establish a monastery of the Melkite rite in Israel. On his way he stopped in St. Louis for a visit with the family, and then with me for a very enjoyable visit.
In the Spring of 1964, in accord with Vatican II, Fr. Abbot began to hold community discussions about the liturgy — our Conventual Mass and Liturgy of the Hours. This was a new experience for us, and it was fruitful both for changes it led to and for creating a community open to more communication. We started that year to have homilies at our Sunday Masses, a practice some in our community opposed. — During my summer vacation in St. Louis in August of that year I attended the convention of the Liturgical Society, including demonstrations of renewed liturgies offered by Msgr. Frederick McManus, and Fr. Walsh S.S.; and I heard lectures on the new liturgy by Fr. Dieckmann, O.S.B. and Msgr. Hellriegel. In the fall, I did suggest to Fr. Abbot that our discussions be extended to other areas. He was open to this, but said I was more optimistic than he about the ability or willingness of the community to share on the sensitive issues. There are some members who always say in such discussions, “I have nothing to add.” He would first try it on liturgical matters and then perhaps extend it to a few other areas. Events showed how difficult it was for some members to change long ingrained habits – habits that our Benedictine practice had perhaps sanctioned and solidified.
In the 1964-1965 academic year, I audited a course on Erik Erikson and developmental psychology more generally in the Psychology Department at the Catholic University in reference to my writing on man’s search for values in relation to the human search for God. I also audited a course on Jean Piaget’s developmental cognitive psychology from Hans Furth, a specialist on Jean Piaget, because I was working on a section in this project which I called “Man’s Knowledge in the World, and God;” and I was looking for data about knowledge that those who accepted the possibility of metaphysics and those who rejected this possibility could accept and needed to account for. Interestingly, at one point in this course a student asked Furth how James Gibson’s account of knowledge related to Piaget’s. Furth answered defensively that his course was on Piaget, so I knew that I would have to study Gibson too. Piaget’s goal was to show the development in the growing child of a capacity for the structures of knowledge basic to physical science; Gibson’s interest was to examine visual perception of three dimensional objects. These studies became central to the anthropological sections of my later work.
I recognized that this would be the last year our little theology school at St. Anselm’s would be functioning, so I would not be teaching theology at the Abbey the following academic year. I thought I should look around Washington for a part time job teaching theology and continue with the writing, which I now thought would in all probability not be completed in the two years I had expected. With Fr. Abbot’s permission I did write to Fr. Schmitz, the dean of the School of Theology at the Catholic University, but he eventually and politely turned me down. – In the summer of 1965 I attended the Catholic Theological Society of America Convention in Denver, and then went to St. Scholastica’s Priory and College in Duluth where I gave a lecture on my book and visited with the Sisters.
At the beginning of September we had a retreat from Father Edward Malone, O.S.B. with some very good conferences on the new context given our religious life by Vatican II, and the invitation and problems that that constituted for us. We had already at St. Anselm’s begun having our Conventual Mass concelebrated, which I participated in initially at times and later regularly . During this retreat I wrote in my journal:
One of the things that comes to me is that I have been working – humbly, it is true, but energetically and solidly – for aggiornamento . . . I have been putting traditional answers into comparison with contemporary experience and problems, and adapting philosophy and theology as it came to me to try to make it do justice to valid values and insights of our time. The rough drafts of my sections on “man’s quest in the world,” and “man’s knowledge in the world” . . . certainly show this spirit . . .
It is strange how little I have realized the value of what I have been doing. All too often I have gone on rather mechanically simply (or excessively) because there was no other direction to go in – without being energized and sustained by the supernatural and natural significance of what I have been doing. I have had such difficulty in appreciating, realizing or being sustained by this significance. Why?
During the 1965-1966 academic year I also became quite anxious about the outcome of this work; it was taking so long and had no publication in immediate prospect. And, now that I was not teaching our seminarians at St. Anselm’s theology, I felt that the community was wondering more and more about the worth of what I was doing and whether it justified my not teaching more in the high school. I wrote:
Being Christ’s instrument in this work . . . calls for a love of God and man and a spirit of sacrifice to which I have not yet grown. In part, this may be what a God-given mission or life or call always does to a person – give him a measure to which he has to stretch out and so make him transcend himself, his present degree of love, understanding and sacrifice. In part also, I have perhaps taken the pain, the self-questioning, the need of daily reapplication, the difficulty of overcoming inertia as indications that I was not appreciating enough the life to which Christ has called me – and this in part may betray the presupposition that this work and life would be easy and effortless if it came from the right motivation and spirit. Perhaps this false idea – false because Christ’s kingdom is constructed in humility, poverty and suffering – has been instilled in me through some unreal spiritual reading – with its description of the peace I should have, the unity with other I should always find, the security I should experience. Maybe, too, I have experienced more of this weakness because the desire for a feeling of adequacy and being on top of all problems has been too exaggerated in me.
These concerns would be even more pronounced later this academic year. But meanwhile, I took time out from my larger writing project for another which I mistakenly thought would be a quick project. A friend of mine told me of a woman he knew who had diabetes, an irregular cycle and very difficult births and whom a doctor told not to have another child or she would risk death. I said to him that some recent studies of mine – meaning developmental psychology – might have some implications for this moral question, and I would spend a month studying it and writing an exploratory article on it. I said this though at the 1965 Convention of the Catholic Theological Society of America I had raised a question against a proposal for opening up the question of the morality of contraception. – I spent the month of December on this issue, concluding that some instances of contraception within marriage are morally allowable, and then in January 1966 I wrote in my journal on the results of my work:
I really do not think the basic moral principles [that I developed] concerning the goodness of an act or the way in which the physical is related to the moral norm is artificial or ad hoc – because I developed it before and independent of my intention to treat the problem of contraception. . . . This application seems to be the basis of the moral permissibility of mutilation in transplantation and, as far as I can see, it does not have consequences of allowing, e.g., extra marital intercourse or other things. . . I am not certain of the correctness of my position, but there is solid reason to think it is correct – and if this is really probable then I should take a chance on it – for all those couples who need this permission if it is morally acceptable.
I did write a few drafts of an article on this matter, submitted it to a few theologians for their review, and sent it to several periodicals which rejected it. In March I even sent it to one who was rumored to be Pope Paul VI’s personal theologian, Bishop Carlo Columbo who kindly answered me; I sent another edition to him in December, 1967 when he was Cardinal Columbo.
Early this year of 1966 I was invited to teach a course on Christology in a summer’s Masters of Theology program at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California, a Christian Brothers College. After some back and forth on this with myself I decided it was a chance, a challenge, and a change that I should not pass up. I asked and received permission from Fr. Abbot so I accepted, even though it would mean a good deal of preparation since I had never taught that section of theology. Happily the request was later changed to teaching a course on theological anthropology, which I had taught previously.
From December to May I had recurring bouts of flu, and during Holy Week I began experiencing pains in my chest. On Good Friday, I picked a thorn from a thorn tree behind our school as a symbol of my acceptance from the Lord of whatever my health problems might mean as a sharing in his suffering. And I have done this every Good Friday since then when I have been here at St. Anselm’s as a symbol of my acceptance of what lies ahead. I went to the doctor and had a number of tests taken, but he found nothing. This caused more anxiety about what the source of this discomfort could be. Was it physical or psychological? Did it come because I had tried something on my own initiative that was too large for me? If my decision to undertake this work was from God, did this health problem come from the fact that I exaggerated my sense of responsibility since I had asked permission to undertake it? It had now been three years since I had received permission to write a book which I thought would take me two years, and no publication had yet resulted. At this time I was habitually setting unreal deadlines for myself to hasten bringing my book project to some form in which I could submit it to a publisher.
I taught at St. Mary’s from late June till early August. It was an experience remarkably different from any I had, and very much influenced by Vatican II. The campus was beautiful, in a pocket among hills which at that time were mostly dry, with mission style buildings, about 25 miles east of San Francisco. The students were mostly religious sisters from a dozen different communities and a few priests and Christian Brothers. The teaching on a particular theme was by a team of three professors. On the theme of “Man, A Creature Open to God,” theological anthropology, one professor took Scripture, I took systematic theology, and another — as I recall — took liturgy and the practical implications. We started from the contemporary problems posed to a doctrine of the Church, had much less time to lecture on a theme than in a seminary course, and had many seminars in which the students discussed an article pertinent to the theme. It demanded selectivity in teaching and assigning articles and was quite stimulating . The students were eager to learn.
Also, there was much contact with the fellow professors, a few of whom were Protestant, and students outside class since virtually all lived on campus for the session. We ate together in the college cafeteria and had liturgy together. At one point we had an outside liturgy in a grove of trees well behind the campus buildings and then a cookout, with beer and some Christian Brothers’ wine from one of their wineries. On the weekend some of us would take walks together. Different lecturers came onto campus to speak to the assembly; and at one point we had an ecumenical prayer service with the Bishop of Oakland, attended by many lay people and Protestants from the area, about 300 people. On one Saturday, we took a trip in a few buses to a Christian Brothers’ winery in the Napa valley and sampled their products. One professor from Washington D.C., Fr. James Reese, O.S.F.S., and I took a weekend trip down south to Carmel, seeing the beauty of the coast. We stopped at a community of discalced Carmelite Sisters, and I was surprised to hear that one of their Sisters had been directed to the Carmelites by Fr. Thomas Verner Moore, that they had read some of his writings in their refectory, and that they had some of his unpublished conferences on spirituality. James and I also visited the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco, where the counter-culture was apparent. A young woman in a convertible threw me an orange with ‘LOVE’ written on it!
Virtually all of the Sisters came in full habits and from very structured communities, and this was their first post-Vatican II experience of a more open and trusting community. All in all it was a very humane and healing experience that we all needed. — I did a good deal of jogging, taking the risk that there was nothing wrong with my heart and thinking that that would be good for my health. At the end of the session I was invited back for the next summer and, when the majority of the students had left campus, I wept at the thought of how different and wonderful the whole experience had been.
2. Time out
When I returned from St. Mary’s and started studying and writing again, I quickly became very exhausted and could do no extended intellectual work. I did see a psychiatrist for one session, and he wanted me to continue with him. But I asked him whether he knew that my condition was not due to nervous exhaustion, and he said he did not. So I preferred to treat this latter condition first. At the advice of my spiritual director and at a time when our Abbot was in Rome for a meeting of Benedictine Abbots of the world, I asked our Prior, Fr. Anselm, whether I could try to find some parish where I could help in exchange for room and board. Fr. Anselm, remembering similar problems he had had as a young man, granted me permission. By providence or happenstance, I heard at the Catholic University of a parish in Daytona, Florida, St. Paul’s, that needed help. I wrote the pastor, and he quickly replied that they would be happy to have me stay there. I wrote Fr. Abbot in Rome, and while in Florida I received his permission for six months away, at first reluctantly but later with generous good wishes.
I was in St. Paul’s for October and almost the whole of November. The parish itself was a bit unusual; it seemed to be run more by the secretary, Thelma, than by the pastor. When one of the curates went off and got a second kit for pastoral visits to the sick, she complained that one kit had been enough for the past forty years. I did take part in the pastoral duties of the parish.
It was close to a wonderful beach which I made good use of daily, and I gradually took a good amount of exercise. But for the first month I had recurring guilt feelings that I had asked for such a leave. I continued to think that the work itself was good and something I should do. I wrote in my journal in December, 1966:
I thought and still think the problem of major importance, and the answer to it still not available. I thought also that I would never have an opportunity in the future to break out of the restrictions of the Thomistic and scholastic framework, and learn the thought of our day and enter into dialogue in the current state of the question. So I saw in working on this book an opportunity of making all my theology and philosophy more relevant to the current age . . .
I gradually acknowledged more that part of my problem was indeed due to pushing myself in my work from a false sense of obligation. This gradually brought me to a deeper realization that this work could only be finished by God’s grace and in his time, rather than by my pushing myself. Actually, I should have praised God that I had accomplished as much as I had. Strangely, I heard from a number of people that they had periods similar to mine in their own lives, among these a lawyer, a doctor and a priest professor of philosophy. They said it had taken them a long time to get over the condition and that I was doing the right thing. This was very reassuring, and a different reaction from that of a doctor who implied that if I just had a better mental attitude the problem would dissolve.
I returned to St. Anselm’s at the end of November and spent the next few months there, preparing the course I was to teach at St. Mary’s the summer of 1967 and looking around for a theology teaching job in Washington. I was invited to teach at De Sales School of Theology part time in the fall of 1967. And then in February, since I was not feeling fully recovered, I asked permission to take a few more months away. I found a parish in Hollywood, Florida, Little Flower parish, where the pastor, Msgr. McKeever, would welcome another priest. I was there from the beginning of March till late May, taking part in the pastoral work while swimming daily at a nearby beach. It was a very congenial parish. The pastor shared his anxieties, partly concerning non-Christians in his area who were pressing for abortion rights. Some of the parishoners were very kind. One of them, Dr. Coffey, put me through a lot of medical tests, found a few areas when my results were out of bounds, and agreed that it had been good for me to get away from work, citing his own earlier similar experience and the amount of time it took him to recover fully from it. My younger sister Julia and her husband Tom McCarthy visited me, perhaps to check me out. It was enjoyable.
I returned to St. Anselm’s toward the end of May, feeling that I was over the major part of this problem and convinced that I had to take regular exercise, an occasional relaxation, and a new attitude to work, being more modest in my expectations and leaving the outcome more fully to God. I wrote in my journal:
I think I still have the emotional tendency that over the years helped me get into this situation – the great self-doubt I had that I could do what I thought I should do, the exaggerated view of what I should do and the tendency to push myself to fulfill these things. There were other things or tendencies with this, such as worrying too much about decisions . . .
I suspect that I will have this condition for a good while to come, and I should learn to live and work with it. So I think that I should ask myself about any project of work whether NOW I am capable of doing it without straining myself . . . I will at least learn more realistically what I can and cannot do.
My problems came in part from the tension between the kind of obedience that had been instilled in us and the fact that I had used my own discernment and decision to undertake a long term project more difficult by far than I had initially anticipated, even though I had permission to do this. It was very difficult to take the risk of a major decision that could end up as a failure as easily as a success. – In early June I did participate in a workshop at the Catholic University on the problem of God in contemporary thought, and concluded, “You are being a damn fool if you think you are back to normal and don’t have to take care.” In fact elements of this problem of exhaustion continued with me for some years. – Later I would relate this experience to the words with which Dante began his Divine Comedy:
Midway this way of life we’re bound upon,
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
Where the right road was wholly lost and gone.
3. Later Developments: 1967-1972
In the summer I taught once more at St. Mary’s College, this time on marriage. I took the doctrinal part of the course, while Fr. James Reese took the Scriptural part and the then Fr. Daniel Maguire took the moral theology of marriage. I relied largely on E. Schillebeeckx, O.P.’s two volumes on Marriage. Human Reality and Saving Mystery. Once more I felt the method of teaching there with its emphasis on many discussions of the material, the interested students, and the friendly contact with other faculty and students outside the classroom was renewing. I used a draft of my article on “The Principle of the Family Good” in a discussion, with positive feedback from the students. There were a few times when I was called up short by health concerns, but I felt somewhat better at the end of the summer session than before.
In the fall I began teaching at De Sales School of Theology. This was a theology school run by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales of their Eastern Province for their own seminarians. The faculty and staff breathed and inculcated in their students the spirit of St. Francis de Sales, a spirit that other Benedictines and I found very congenial. The first translation into English of some of Francis de Sales’ writings was done by an English Benedictine (Fr. Mackey); and Fr. Aelred Graham, O.S.B. had recently written a book on St. Francis. This spirit was one of large hearted total dedication to Christ, a striving to let Jesus live in them, and a spirituality that gave priority to the love of God and prayer from which an active apostolate was fed. In these early post-Vatican II years their seminaries were still full of students; and the students were generally intelligent young men who had gone through their high schools, college and the novitiate and who were being prepared for high school and parish ministry. Their theology school was one of some fourteen Catholic seminaries in the Washington area at that time; and these seminaries were in the process of probing the possibilities of merger with one another, thus forming a Coalition of Catholic theology schools, and of establishing a larger Consortium of seminaries that would include the Protestant seminaries in the Washington area.
I was teaching theology part time and continuing my teaching a course in our highschool. My course for about 30 first year theology students was a two semester course on “Fundamental Theology,” which meant a study of the basis and meaning of belief in God and in Christian revelation through Jesus Christ, and the bases on which theology could be validly developed. I was able to integrate some material which I had been researching and writing on over the past few years and use what I had previously taught in a similar course at St. Anselm’s small theology school. But it was a different course and it took a good deal of preparation on my part. Some students felt that I was pushing them a bit too hard; but the head of the seminary, Fr. John Harvey, O.S.F.S, had in response to a “white paper” the students had earlier presented to him changed the curriculum so that there would be fewer class hours but more expectations of reading and papers as appropriate for graduate courses, so he did not sympathize with these students. Happily, on the whole the students were quite satisfied with my teaching.
There were other things I was involved in to give some variety to my life. One amenity in my life at that time was an Olympia electric typewriter given to me by my Aunt Pat and Uncle Pip Gross. This made quite a welcome change in my work. I visited my eldest brother, John, living in Princeton while teaching English literature in a New Jersey college, in early October and then also during the Christmas holidays. And my brother Scottie, at that point living in Brussels as the head of the Ralston Purina Feed Company there, visited me for a few very enjoyable days in January. Strangely, he had some concerns similar to mine: As I wrote in my journal, he shared with me his reflections:
on the possibility that he should be doing something less demanding so that he could devote more time and energy to his family, his questioning of the worth of his work, his difficulties he faces in the work . . So his continuation of this work is in the midst of questions whether he should go on with it – strangely like me. . . . He goes below the surface with business’s problems, even though it takes more time.
In 1966 I had handed on the ministry of being chaplain at St. Gertrude’s School to younger priests in my community, but in 1967 I took up once more my work with the Benedictine Oblates in Philadelphia after a year’s break, and I joined the Washington Philosophy Club. There were a few people who came to me for counseling.- And in early 1968 I was asked by the editor of Salesian Studies to write my first book review, on A Theological Anthropology by Hans Urs von Balthasar, the first of many reviews I was to write for various journals over the following decades.
My health problems continued in part and the pattern of attitudes that contributed to them continued. As I wrote at the beginning of this school year:
What do I anticipate as the main difficulties I will face this coming school year? The main one will be with FAITH, I strongly suspect. There is a strong dynamic pattern in me that opposes my trusting acceptance of God’s power active in me to bring me and the work he asks of me to completion. My greatest difficulty will probably be [my reluctance] to see certain reactions of mine . . . as due to this pattern RATHER than [having] objective basis or significance.
I took regular exercise several times a week, a habit I continued for the next forty years, tried to catch myself up when I was overtired, and had regular relaxations within and outside the community, e.g. attending a movie, visiting some friends.
On the first Vespers of the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (January 24, 1968) I wrote:
God gave me a gift of understanding . . . not simply for myself but for others – that I may bring others to center their lives on God in our day and age, and that they may understand what it is within them that questions this. . . . Let me rely on God’s power mercifully coming to me and operating within me, rather than on my own power and control of things, and let me stop if I start depending on my power, pushing myself rather than accepting the self-denial implied by responding to God’s will. Let me accept the uncertainty or limitations of how much I can do now, how fast I can go, how important this is, cutting down if health gets worse.
And after the assassination of Martin Luther King I wrote:
. . . Martin Luther King who was killed last Thursday said some years ago that if one didn’t dedicate himself to something for which he was willing to die – no matter if he lived till 80, his death would just be the external sign of an inner death that occurred decades earlier. The riots that have occurred here since King’s death show me what so frequently escapes me – how good God has been to me – and also pose the question: what is the relation of my work to the needs of men today?
In our community, there were further steps in our post-Vatican II renewal. Our rising hour was put later, at 5 a.m. on school days rather than 4:30 a.m., at 6 a.m. on weekends. The number of psalms recited in our Liturgy of the Hours was gradually reduced so that there was a two week cycle rather than a one week cycle; this was appropriate because our lives were so different from those of medieval monks, in part because of our busy school days. We continued some community discussions, and some very few decisions concerning the liturgy did not gain large acceptance. Both the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours were gradually put into English, to the dismay of some of our elderly members who felt deeply the loss of the Gregorian Chant. One result of this was that the brothers were able to take part in the latter. These brothers were no longer considered as second class citizens of the monastery, but now had an active voice in Chapter or community decisions. There was somewhat less formalism; the ‘chapter of faults’ which had become too formalistic was dropped. And after some time we began to have an informal simple meal on Sunday evenings in our calefactory with wine and beer to encourage more friendly conversation among the members of the community. This period was the height of our numbers at St. Anselm’s, about 37 members.
In the Spring of 1968, Fr. Abbot asked the headmaster of the school to step down and make way for a younger member of the community to take over. He gave the few monks affected by this change the option to work outside the community for a year; three accepted this, but this external work lasted a good number of years. And the one who did take over in the school left the community after a year, marrying the first woman appointed to be a teacher at the school.– We were beginning to be affected by the post-Vatican II disarray in religious life.
In the summer I once more taught at St. Mary’s College, this time on eschatology, and enjoyed and profited from many informal contacts with other faculty and students. Many Sisters there were now attending in modified habits. And there was something new on campus – a priest professor of Scripture who was convinced that Bultmann was the wave of the future and who conveyed this to the students. As a result of the sharing by some students with me I wrote:
I have seen how powerful an obstacle or distorting schema [there is] that influences the way in which they experience life . . . as a result of some past, and usually early, experiences. This is true of all of us . . . How difficult a time each of us has in effectively recognizing the distortions our ‘schemata’ impose on reality through our experience!!
I also visited the family in St. Louis, staying for a time with my sister Elizabeth, my father and my eldest brother at Pinook where I had largely grown up.
That summer, Pope Paul VI published his encyclical repeating the Church’s teaching on birth control, Humanae vitae, and there was a large outcry against it. Signatures disagreeing with this encyclical were solicited from many theologians, myself included, and many gave them. I did not, because I had not yet had the opportunity to read the encyclical and I did not agree with the broad differences from the Church on issues of sexual morality held by some leaders of this movement. Toward the end of the summer I once more revised my article on the subject and sent it off once more to a Catholic journal, only to have it rejected once more. At Fr. Abbot’s request I gave a brief summary of my article to our monastic community and answered questions. Again I revised my article on the subject several times and sent it to periodicals, but it was rejected again and again. In the following months I shared it also with a few moral theologians who gave me encouraging feedback on it. After this I sent copies of it to some sixty theologians and priests, and received mixed replies, many of which, however, were positive.
My health had improved significantly if not thoroughly, and I expressed my hope to continue the direction I had been going in, but only in a spirit of service. I continued to teach Fundamental Theology at De Sales School of Theology, considering my preparation of the first part, on belief in God, to be preparatory for my writing project on that theme. This work helped me gain further assurance that the project I had been pursuing was indeed from God and worthwhile. This semester involved a fair number of meetings of the faculty and staff of the Catholic seminaries in the Washington area preparatory for their formation of a Coalition of seminaries rather than continuing their independent existence. There were other variations from studies and teaching. I gave a retreat in November to a convent of Visitation Sisters in Brooklyn who had a school and were having difficulties with the way that Vatican officials were trying to force them into canonical categories not faithful to their history and experience as a contemplative-active community. Happily, they found my treatment of the theme of the relation of the contemplative to the active life helpful.
In late September my father who had contracted pneumonia was in critical condition at the Veteran’s Hospital outside St. Louis. In fact the doctor was surprised that he lived through a critical few days, and said that if we wanted to see him alive we should visit him now, because he could go any time or possibly improve. I went to St. Louis for a week in late September, and my brother Tommy came on from Israel, my brother Scottie from Italy, my brother Peter from New York and my brother Francis from Madison, Wisconsin. He recognized us all and said that he would live a while longer. – At the beginning of December, the younger daughter of my brother David and his wife, Cathie, died in a fire in their farm house outside St. Louis. Eighteen month old Hannah was being taken care of that day by a friend of her mother’s who was a cripple, and so when the house caught on fire was not able to retrieve the child on the other side of the firewall. Later in December I went once more to St. Louis to visit my father who recognized me and knew what was going on in the family, but was also hallucinating. While I was there my sister Cordelia took her final vows as a Religious of the Sacred Heart at their St. Charles Academy where she had as a child gone to school. My brother Tommy and I concelebrated the Mass during which she took these vows, and it was a joyous occasion with most of the family there.
On February 20, 1969, after a peaceful day and a prolonged visit from my brother William and sisters, Elizabeth, Cordelia and Julia, my father died at the age of 79. This was the same day of the year that his sister, Julia, had died on in 1947, so we felt that she had come to take him home; it was twenty-two years after my mother died. I remember that he had asked me on one of my visits to St. Louis whether he would meet my mother after his death, and he was very consoled by my positive answer. I went home for the funeral and celebrated the Mass. Though the occasion was sad, the visits with the family were renewing.
Early in the second semester I signed up for another summer session at St. Mary’s, this time for a course on “Contemporary Experience and the Question of God.” I prepared the outlines and bibliography for the course and sent them out, hoping that this course might help me in my writing project on this theme.
Also early in this second semester I learned that the emerging Coalition would not be able to offer me the same amount of teaching as De Sales did. That initiated my anxious questions of whether and where I should apply for a job teaching theology, part or full time, in the following academic year. As a result I wrote to a number of Catholic colleges and universities in the Washington area, among them the School of Theology at the Catholic University. The latter resulted in a firm invitation to teach and a two year contract as an Assistant Professor, which I accepted. I accepted this as a service that would, perhaps, help others more than my writing would, while I wondered whether it was worthwhile to take such a demanding program of work at the expense perhaps of personal life, particularly with my history of hyper-tension. And at this time I was feeling a degree of loneliness that even fleetingly raised the question in my mind of staying at St. Anselm’s, but with the celebration of Holy Week and Easter I renewed my self-offering to the Lord, trusting once more in his continued help. And I attended the first Catholic “Charismatic Renewal” group in the Washington area, finding the Spirit there very refreshing.
The summer session at St. Mary’s went well. I had my first opportunity to use the material I had worked on in reference to philosophers like Kant, Hegel, Dewey, Marx, Wittgenstein, Husserl and Heidegger. I was encouraged by the number of students who were very positive in their evaluation of my efforts. And the camaraderie was once more enjoyable and mutually strengthening. But there was the first indication of what was to be a broader movement later — a sister student projecting marriage to a priest professor.
Early in September, Fr. Abbot gave a talk to the community in preparation for the upcoming abbatial election. He was completing his first term as Abbot (1961-1969), and spoke of the need to prepare to support the one whom the community voted for, that the Abbot should not be expected to bear the whole burden of forming community, and that there was a danger that with years in religious life some monks give less room to God and to his Spirit and grace. Fr. Victor Farwell, the Abbot President of the English Benedictine Congregation, led a canonical visitation with the community in which he emphasized some of the same concerns that our abbot had. The election followed immediately on the visitation, and Abbot Alban was elected to another eight year term.
Two monks who were teaching at the Catholic University sought and obtained permission to live outside the community – an “exclaustration ad nutum Sanctae Sedis,” a permission to live outside the cloister at the discretion of the Holy See. This showed the tension and difficulty present in combining monastic life and higher education, though this had been the goal of the founders of St. Anselm’s and they had managed to do it fruitfully. This separation was painful for me and for others.
In early October, Fr. Walter Burghardt, the editor of Theological Studies, accepted my article on “The Principle of the Family Good” for publication for the following June, while asking me to redevelop part of it in view of articles he advised me to read. Finally! The article was now cast as an evaluation of Humanae Vitae.
Due to my full time teaching contract, I was relieved of teaching in our high school. My course on “Revelation and Faith” was going well. However, the majority of students in my M.A. elective on “Contemporary Experience and the Problem of God” dropped out, and the remaining asked me to go more slowly – confining this semester simply to the problem. Another course, “Introduction to the History of Theology,” which I was organizing and in which other professors and I gave lectures, went well. — There was a crisis going on at the Catholic University’s School of Theology. The third year students in the Bachelors’ program were refusing to take the assigned comprehensives, though the great majority did finally take them. The teaching and tension at the school exacerbated my own sense of pressure and health problems. – I decided to accept the invitation from St. Mary’s to return and teach in a course on the Trinity, particularly because the St. Mary experience was renewing for me and I was slated to teach this course at the University the following fall. At Christmas time I went to St. Louis to celebrate the wedding of my sister Elizabeth to George Monnig; it was an enjoyable and relaxing break.
In the second semester I taught a course on “Selected Doctrinal Questions of Fundamental Theology” and a seminar course on “Man’s Religious Transcendence.” This course used my exploration of how developmental psychology could be used as a phenomenology to evaluate, support and enlarge Thomas’s interpretation of man’s knowledge and value orientation as open to God, relating it to contemporary experience.
Also in this second semester I made a list of experiences that really relaxed me during the last year or so, and found that most of them occurred at St. Mary’s and in St. Louis, and that most of them “are not large parties – not, for the most part, very serious conversations — but small groups of congenial people – giving a sense of openness, mutual acceptance and appreciation.” Our own community was still experiencing a good deal of tension; and I felt at times somewhat isolated in it, though a new addition to the community, Fr. John Main, O.S.B., at that time an extrovert and raconteur, was a great help. In 1969 he came from Ealing Abbey in England to do some graduate work in theology; but when in the fall of 1970 we were in need of a new Headmaster of our school, he was asked to take the job and he did for the next four years. – I wondered at times whether I should stay at St. Anselm’s, but wrote:
I say intellectually that this is the best life for me – but somehow much of me seems to disagree with that – perhaps lack of generosity – perhaps that with the strains of work such as I have, I have to experience and give more human affection.
On Good Friday, as usual, I picked a thorn as a symbol of the following:
I do commit myself (1) to share our Lord’s insecurity in my WORK through working only within the limits of my present health –with NO forcing, (2) to share our Lord’s humility through openness and communication with my confréres accepting “spernere se sperni. (To spurn being spurned).”
At the end of the second semester I praised the Lord that I survived and that I taught two courses that would help me in my writing project, while acknowledging that “it has been one long strain and anxiety and pressure and just keeping ahead of what I was to teach.” My article on “The Principle of the Family Good” was finally published in June.
My St. Mary’s experience during the summer was again largely relaxing, and my teaching on the Trinity was very helpful indeed for the course on this subject I was to teach at the Catholic University in the fall. After the session, I flew to St. Louis for a vacation and from there back to St. Anselm’s.
In the fall I taught a course on “The Theology of God,” a research guidance course on “Contemporary Experience and the Problem of God,” and a doctoral seminar on “Man’s Religious Transcendence.” In early November, the head of the department of theology told me that some students had gone the Dean’s office to complain of my course on the Theology of God. And he asked to take a class evaluation. I sprang it on the students and it turned out very positive, with a very few negative. Nevertheless, the Committee on Appointments and Promotions decided not to renew my contract for the fall of 1971. This was a great disappointment for me at the time. In fact, a day or so after this news, I fainted in choir during our conventual mass, perhaps because of the flu I was just beginning to have. The priest ahead of me in choir, Fr. Raymond, turned around and gave me final absolution, just in case. – Once more, I did not know whether it was some failure on my part or the politics of the School of Theology that caused this. Perhaps my article on “The Principle of the Family Good” raised some questions for some professors. And my concentration on some philosophical issues was not the style of the head of the theology department, though it was central to current issues in theology. – Fr. Abbot was very understanding, particularly after I showed him the class evaluation.
In the second semester, I began wondering what steps I should take for the following academic year. – I had turned down an invitation to teach again that summer at St. Mary’s. – I did get in touch with a couple of theology departments in the Washington area, to no effect. The head of the Catholic University department of theology did later invite me to apply for an opening they had for sacramental theology; but after reflecting, I did not accept this because he had taken the courses on God away from me, and this other area was a diversion from what I felt I had to offer.
My major interest was to finally bring to the point of publication what I had worked on for so long. I wanted to use the next academic year as an experiment to see whether I could get a substantial amount of material I had worked on ready for publication. And I thought that to insure permission to do this I would need to receive a grant to support this work, So I presented this proposal to Fr. Abbot; and he gave me permission, but said if I did not get a grant I would teach in the high school. I applied to thirteen foundations for grants for this writing project for the following year, and received negative responses from twelve of them. Among these, I applied to the National Endowment for the Humanities, asking support for my proposal to use cognitive developmental psychology (Jean Piaget and James and Eleanor Gibson) as a kind of phenomenology to evaluate a classical interpretation of human knowledge (Thomas Aquinas), expecting both to defend and broaden this view. Similarly I would use Erik Erikson and others’ analysis of the development of the human person to evaluate a classical interpretation of our human orientation to a distinctively human fulfillment and beyond that. In the beginning of April I received a reply from them indicating that there was still a possibility that I would get support for this project, but their final decision would be in June.– In the midst of all of this, I was of course experiencing a great deal of tension. Early in June I received a negative reply from the National Endowment for the Humanities, so Fr. Abbot asked me to teach a couple of courses in the high school. But Fr. John Main told him that all the courses for the coming year were already covered, and, having seen my article in Theological Studies, he suggested that I would do better doing research in theology and philosophy. So Fr. Abbot gave me permission to use the next year as an experiment.
In June I began to work on my writing project, now not on developmental psychology, etc., but on the problem posed by modern and contemporary philosophers to a classical view of our knowledge of God and our human orientation to God, and then how various theologians and philosophers who came from a Thomistic tradition (e.g., Karl Rahner and Bernard Lonergan) respond to this challenge. After Vatican II there was developing a fragmentation among Catholic theologians in the philosophy they would use in their work, many rejecting Thomas and others interpreting Thoms in quite varied ways. I had been encouraged to think that Thomas was still a great resource because his philosophy had helped me significantly in my doctoral dissertation. And my first published article showed me that Thomas’s philosophy was capable of further development. I was much helped by the fact that I had now taught this material several times on a graduate level.
In need of more variety in my life and some more pastoral work, I accepted an invitation to be a chaplain in the “Teams of our Lady,” a movement for the spirituality of married men and women that had begun in France in the early 1940′s, had spread widely from there and was rather strong in the Washington area. This movement encourages couples to take means to grow spiritually in a way appropriate to their married life, for example, to read Scripture daily and pray together daily, to have a serious conversation about their relationship once a month, to attend a meeting of the team once a month where there is a discussion of a pre-arranged topic and a meditation, etc. Each team has six couples and a chaplain. I began working with a team in the Maryland suburbs and kept with it for four years. The monthly meeting was an encouragement to me as well as to them.- Also I continued attending the Catholic University weekly Charismatic Renewal meeting. After some time I began teaching series of talks on each of the Synoptic Gospels in turn to a number of participants after the weekly general meeting.
During the summer I was invited to be a chaplain on two Caribbean one-week cruises run by a Norwegian line, and I accepted. This was my first trip outside continental North America. We sailed to such places as San Juan, Haiti, St. Thomas, and Jamaica. We had enjoyable days and nights at sea, had good shore trips, saw many beautiful places and much poverty, especially on Haiti. I had enjoyable meetings with a variety of people on board. I offered a Catholic Mass and a Protestant service on Sundays for hundreds of people, in the latter giving those attending a leaflet with the Mass prayers and explaining the Catholic Mass. A number of Protestants saw similarities between it and their own services. I found the experience relaxing and enjoyable, but never applied for a repeat because I tired of meeting so many people and so much chitchat.
The writing project seemed to be making progress, and I was also weighing different possibilities for the next academic year, 1972-1973. In early November I attended my first of many American Academy of Religion Conventions in Atlanta and, afterwards, had a retreat at the Trappist Abbey nearby. After that, I wrote Fr. Abbot a letter outlining different possibilities for the following year, such as applying to teach at the Benedictine international theology school, San Anselmo in Rome, for a few years, but indicating my preference to try to find a part time job teaching theology in the Washington area and continuing this research. He very kindly approved of this option. It had always been my view that I could serve the Church more by research and writing than by teaching. – At the end of November, I accepted an invitation to teach a course during the Spring semester of 1972 on “The One and Triune God” at De Sales School of Theology. I did write to eight colleges or universities and the Coalition about the possibility of part time teaching in the following academic year. And I passed up applying for some openings I had been informed about that were outside the Washington area.
At the beginning of 1972 my eldest brother, John, died suddenly, and I went to St. Louis for his funeral. It was a great shock and sadness for our family – the first of our siblings to die.
In March, Fr. John Harvey called and said that they would like me to teach a course each semester for the 1972-1973 academic year, for their own students and also for some Dominicans and Oblates of Immaculate Mary. De Sales and these two other theology schools had formed a “Cluster of Independent Theological Schools” as an alternative to joining the recently established Coalition (later called The Washington Theological Union). These three schools wanted more control over what their seminarians would study; they shared faculty, students, facilities, libraries and programs, and were in the process of being accredited on the basis of these strengths. Each religious order was now beginning to receive fewer applicants, so their independent schools were declining in number. I joyfully accepted his invitation. And in mid-March I sent a very long article I had written on “Man’s Transcendence” to the editor of The Thomist for their consideration for publication. In June I received their acceptance of this material to be published in two long articles, one in 1973 on “Religious Reflection and Man’s Transcendence” on the problem posed to the knowledge and relevance of God by modern philosophers with some of my initial suggestions of answers, and one in 1974 on “Man’s Transcendence and Thomistic Resources,” on various options that philosophers and theologians from a Thomistic background had taken to answer this problem, with some of my evaluation of these approaches. The editor later told me that they accepted the whole of this because 1974 was the 700th anniversary of Thomas Aquinas’ death, and my second article was relevant to the collection of articles they were preparing for that year. He also later informed me that they were surprised that all of their extra offprints of my first article were ordered by readers , something that virtually never happened. I obviously had much to thank God for all of this; my work was answering some need.
In early March I asked Fr. Abbot’s permission to take a trip to Italy and Israel during the summer as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of my entrance into St. Anselm’s Abbey and, I was thinking, as a celebration of my having completed these articles, and he very kindly gave me permission. I received some financial aid for this trip from family, relations and friends, and much from St. Anselm’s.
I left New York for Rome on May 14th and spent almost two weeks there with my sister-in-law, Dede, the widow of my deceased oldest brother, and her children. Of course I was deeply moved by many of the beautiful churches and much of the art work in them and in the Vatican Museum. Dede also took me to Subiaco where St. Benedict had initially been a hermit and later had started his first monasteries. Later she and family drove me down to Brindisi from which I took a ship to Patras, Greece; and on the way we stopped at Monte Cassino. As I wrote in my journal, in the crypt at Monte Cassino where Sts. Benedict and Scholastica are buried , “Kneeling there I asked Benedict and Scholastica to pray that I may be faithful and may be a saint,” – a rather large request that I can’t see that they answered. On the trip south and then to the east to Bari and further south we saw some beautiful and varied scenery.
The ferry ride was itself a very enjoyable experience, and I stayed up on the deck almost till mid-night looking at the lights in the sky and at sea. The next day we stopped for a while at the island Corfu and then went to Patras, from which I took a bus to Athens and stayed in a hotel there for one night. I visited the Acropolis the next day, much of it constructed in the 5th century b.c.; compared to it, Rome seemed young. I wrote “how religious in a way the Greeks were before they were philosophical . . . The mathematical knowledge displayed by these creations – and the sense of harmony and beauty!”
On May 27th I flew to Tel Aviv. My brother Tommy picked me up and we went to his monastery, situated on a very high hill west of the Lake of Galilee, which they called Lavra Netofa. I can see from my journal that this leg of my trip enchanted me most. It would prolong this journal unreasonably to recount much of it. A few things. I recall that Fr. Ya’aqov and Tommy greeted me that evening with schnapps after dinner and “Eine Kleine Nachmusik” on their gramophone. The next day, Sunday, I walked around their property with my brother and noted: “What a beautiful site. During the day as the mist rose we saw Lake Tiberias, Mount Tabor, Mount of Beatitudes, Golan Heights – and folds of hills upon hills. The night view is beautiful too – seeing a number of villages separated by large dark spots.” Later in the morning I concelebrated with Ya’aqov and Tommy in the rite of St. James of Jerusalem. On Monday Tommy and I, with two young men staying at their community at the time, started a very eventful and enlightening trip through Israel in the community’s small truck..On this trip, what most impressed me was Jerusalem. While there, we stayed at the German Benedictine Abbey, Dormition Abbey. We explored some marvels of old Jerusalem. On the following day I concelebrated mass in German with the community, then walked to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Beside noting the great privilege it was to be there, I wrote, “What a conglomeration of Catholic – Orthodox – Ethiopian! The confusion of Christian divisions really comes home here!- Last night I met a man who from being a Catholic became a Jew and is studying to be a Jewish rabbi because he thinks it necessary to approach Christ through Judaism!” I also wrote:
This a.m. three Japanese came into Lod Airport near Tel Aviv (the one I came into) through Air France – took submachine guns and grenades out of their baggage and killed over 20 people, most Portugese (only 4 Israeli) — they did it out of sympathy with El Fatah.
On the first of June, Tommy and I concelebrated mass in the sepulcher of our Lord on his tomb – on the stone on which he was laid! – what a privilege. The four of us then drove down to Bethlehem and from there to Mar Saba, a monastery of Greek Orthodox monks in Wadi Kiddron near the Dead Sea, from the 5th century. St. Sabas founded it; the Christians of the West took his body to Rome during the Crusades, and Pope Paul VI had recently returned it. In a section to the side of the main altar there were 400 skulls of monks killed by Moslems in the 7th century. A Brother Pachomius , Dutch, showed us around and said “‘the root of all the differences between Orthodoxy and Rome is the ‘filioque’ which is totally heretical!’ What views – their church, chapel (dedicated about 508), cell and tomb of St. John Damascene, . . . What an experience of Orthodoxy, of early monasticism. They only read the Fathers, esteem St. Benedict highly.”
We drove to Qumran, walked through the excavations and saw at a distance the cave where some of the Qumran documents were found in 1947. And from there to the Dead Sea, at the banks of which we had our dinner and slept that night. The next day we drove to Masada where Jews about 70 a.d. committed suicide rather than fall into the hands of the Romans who were besieging it; Israeli soldiers now take their oath of loyalty at this location. We went further south and then turned inland passing the nuclear reactor plant where the Israeli were building an atomic bomb, and then later turned into a wadi looking for a place called Scorpion’s Pass. It was supposed to be a beautiful view at sundown, but we got there late at night. One of the young men with us tried to get gasoline for cooking by loosening a screw at the bottom of the gas tank of the truck, and it broke off in his hand. He stuck his finger up the hole until Tommy cut a peg, wrapped it with cloth and stuck it up the hole. Thank God that stayed in place – all the way back to Lavra Netofa! — The next day we drove back to L.N. via Hebron, where we looked at the tombs of Abraham and Sara, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah! Then through some memorable sights back to L. N.
One strong impression I have is that Yaa’qov and Tommy here are on the right track – primitive, poor, pioneers and very human, not pretentious, but starting from scratch and trying honestly to build something appropriate to this area. – How Tommy needs a community, as we all do. Lord, let me build well rather than much!” It was a great privilege to see the holy places and to get first hand experience of many religious seekers with their improbable pilgrimages from one tradition to another.
On the 6th of June Tommy and I went to Tel Aviv, and the next day I flew to Athens. I stayed there a couple of days, revisiting the Acropolis at leisure and taking a side trip to Delphi, the early religious center of the Greeks and the location of the Delphic oracles. From Athens to Patras and then by ferry to Brindisi. I spent a night in Naples and visited Pompeii before taking the train to Florence where, I had been surprised to hear from my brother Scottie, I had two young cousins, with whom I stayed a few days, enjoying the artistic beauties of the city and area. These were Nona Aguilar and Joy Linton, related to me by way of my mother’s maternal grandfather, Moses Linton.
From there to Milan where my brother Scottie and sister-in-law Joy and their four children were living; Scottie was the head of the Italian branch of the Ralston Purina Feed Company, preparing to go to Paris to take the same position with the French branch. It was a lovely visit with them. I spent a few days in Venice with my cousin Nona, then returned to Milan and so to the USA and St. Anselm’s. This was a six week vacation, fitting celebration for my finishing a section of the work I had been involved in for so long. I was very grateful to God and to those who kindly financed this trip.