Saturday, February 20, 2010

Convent Purchased on E-bay

Why, you might ask, would someone buy a convent? I felt the hand of providence in it at the time. I was striving for a way to bring together a group of similarly situated folks for a monastic experiment and house of hospitality in the Catholic Worker tradition.

The Community of All Angels was an attempt at a monastic foundation to serve former religious and members of the marginalized communities who were not fully embraced by their local churches or religious communities. In 1992, when I made my final vows, I did so as the first (and only) life professed member of the visible community. However, as a collection of hearts and souls and in the communion of the saints and angels, it was, in mind, a great collection of witnesses! I often think of the communion of saints and angels in terms of Napoleon Hill’s master mind alliance.

Believe it or not, new religious communities come into existence every year. Some are eventually elevated to the status of a congregation, order, etc. or some remain unaffiliated with church hierarchies. I was actually in the novitiate twice, once in the Roman Catholic communion and once as an Episcopalian. Although my affinity is for Benedictine spirituality, I received my religious formation from the Society of St. Francis while a resident at St. Elizabeth's Friary in Brooklyn, New York. The Society of St. Francis is a monastic order in the Episcopal Church whose motherhouse is in Mt. Sinai, New York, just outside of Port Jefferson. One of the guardians of the house, Franciscan speak for superior, was once an Anglican Benedictine in England so at least there are some ties to St. Benedict's lineage.

Although my spiritual journey had taken me from Roman Catholicism to the Episcopal church, I was not setting out to create an Episcopal monastic community. At the time, although the Episcopal church had embraced the ordination of women, the church was still in turmoil over the issues surrounding sexuality and from my Roman Catholic background, I had no interest in entering that fray again. Nonetheless, in response to an article in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), I sent in a letter explaining my situation and what I was trying to accomplish and the NCR published my letter and entitled it, "Calling All Angels." After publication, the phone rang off the hook at the friary for a few days and then all that subsided. The pledge of support from these individuals was the basis of why I thought there was sufficient interest for such a monastic experiment. So for many years, I kept at it. My entrance to religious life, at age 16, was on March 9, 1983, the Feast of St. Frances of Rome. I spent the next 22 years trying to reconcile my inner experiences with my perception of the outer realities until 2005 and the loss of the convent, purchased to be the home of The Community of All Angels in Jay, Maine. Perhaps I was trying God's providence in the purchase of the convent. As I waited and watched, I did so alone for the most part. That being the case, I interpreted that my monastic vocation is essentially an internal one and abandoned a notion that the truth of it, for me, was in any outward expression of this calling.

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