Asculta, January 2, 2019

St Benedict, from the west facade of Norwich Cathedral, clearly modeled after me.

St Benedict, from the west facade of Norwich Cathedral, clearly modeled after me.

Asculta O fili. Listen my son.

Thus begins the Holy Rule of St Benedict, which we read all the way through three times a year in the parish at Evening Prayer. On January 1 we begin again. In his prologue, St Benedict talks about different kinds of monks. He contrasts the monks that float from place to place looking for what suits them with the monks that are rooted in stability. While the ascetic heroes of monasticism may be the hermits who fight temptation and the devil all by themselves in the wilderness, most of us cannot do it that way. We need the support of a community and the stability of a Rule of Life.

Like everyone, I get wander lust. I am grateful for the tethers of prayer that keep me grounded, especially on the marathon that is Wednesday.

Morning Prayer, Mass for the Christmas Feria, Bible Study at 10:30, and mass again with unction at noon. In between I had time to speak to someone who had questions about confession. I’ve been ramping up my rhetoric on confession lately, as I am convinced more than ever this is what we need. I have come to learn that if someone keeps asking about confession, they are more compelled to confess than curious about the practice. The more opportunities for the conversation, the more likely they will act on that compulsion.

After mass, I worked on the chalk blessing cards for Epiphany on Sunday and started to work on a revamped employee handbook; not something I was looking forward to but something I have been needing to do for some time. Working in a church is so different from working anywhere else. In full disclosure, I’ve never worked anywhere else (not really) but it doesn’t take too many conversations with those who work in other fields to discover that, while they are some commonalities, we are really talking about different universes. Therefore the employee handbook must be different from the one used at the local corporation. It’s a bit more work in that I can’t simply cut and paste. Oh that I could!

Mid-afternoon was spent with my Wardens in our weekly meeting. Evening Prayer followed and then Shrine Prayers, and the Rosary. I was so pleased to have a seminarian join us for all three. It’s strange thing, really, to see this man who is now half through his first year of seminary. When I came to this parish, he was barely a teenager (he may not have even been one). I joked with him after Evening Prayer and asked when the last time he said Rite I Evening Prayer was. “The last time I was here,” he said with no joy. Such a shame, and he agrees, that many/most seminaries aren’t training their students to know the full breath of Prayer Book spirituality and practice. Sure Rite I isn’t en vogue by seminary professors, but when these students go to their first parish, the first time they will ever experience a Rite I burial is when they do one! So many parishes have their first mass of the day as quiet Rite I liturgy for the older folks who cut their faithful teeth on the 1928 Prayer Book. What about them? I don’t know why seminaries don’t teach how to use every tool in the toolbox. When they enter the parish, they may never have to use this or that, but at least they know how.  

I couldn’t tell you the last time I said mass versus populum and I certainly couldn’t tell you the last time I used Enriching Our Worship or Prayer C – but I have. As soon as I was ordained priest, the nuns of the Order of St Helena had me saying mass every Tuesday morning at the convent. I was given all sorts of prayers to say. When in Rome…. I can’t imagine ever using them again, but they are in my toolbox.


I was pleased our seminarian stayed for Rosary, it was another first. I even took a picture to document it, doubtful his seminary friends would believe it! The rosary? In an Episcopal Church? Surely not! They might be surprised.

Not too long ago a parishioner told me how important the rosary was during an MRI. I’ve never had one and can’t imagine that claustrophobic hell. What helped take their mind off the enclosed terror was to recite the rosary. God gave us an organic rosary with ten fingers and it’s easy to do.

After rosary, about 25 of us went Christmas caroling around the neighborhood and to a retirement home where some of our parishioners live. I can’t imagine the confusion of people on January 2 hearing a crowd walking down the street singing Angels we have heard on high, but it is, as you know, still Christmas.

After a long day, I finished Broken on my BritBox. The last scene on the final episode got to me. Watch it.