It’s a Monday in March and it is cold, grey and rainy. That means Mrs Longenecker will be happy because the weather is English-like. I explain to folks who are somewhat confused by her weather preferences that it is not the cold, damp weather she likes so much as the idea that one might go for a good old tromp across the countryside wearing Barbour jacket, wellie boots and romping with the dog and getting wet and somewhat muddy. That is pleasurable in itself for an English person (along with falling off the stile as you cross a fence and getting your jumper tangled in brambles) but the real pleasure is coming home, kicking off the boots, slapping on the kettle and settling down in front of the fire with a Rich Tea biscuit… if all you Yanks don’t have a clue about the Anglo-jargon in this paragraph….well go look it up. Fr Benedict Kiely (at least) will get it!

This morning I went over to church to celebrate Mass with Holy Deacon as my server. I hope after this two week lockdown we will have learned some lessons and there may be some common sense provisions put in place whereby we may administer the sacraments under some conditions that still observe proper distancing and hygiene. God is still with his people and Mass is still being celebrated in our churches, but our people need the sacraments. They also need pastoral care and support, so I emailed our team to see how things are going on that front. Our St Vincent dePaul food pantry was open on Saturday and had the usual number of clients–about 65. I expect in the weeks ahead as unemployment begins to bite there will be more. We’re also trying to set up a special fund to help our parishioners who are laid off and in financial difficulties because of the lockdown.

In writing last week about the ways the lockdown can be used creatively I mentioned what we might be able to learn from the Benedictine monks. You might like to read this further article published at Imaginative Conservative on the subject. Part of the Benedictine Way is to practice the “three tools” of work, prayer and reading. So to help with the “reading” part I thought I would start up a T.S.Eliot Book Club here on the blog. Over the years I’ve read a good bit about Eliot and his poetry and I realize for many this great writer is impenetrable, obscure, mystifying..and down right weird. So maybe I can help.

Here’s how it is going to work: I’ll be writing a few blog posts about Eliot and his work for everyone to access here on the blog and I’ll set some reading assignments with links so you can read online in case you don’t have a copy of his complete poems and plays. Everybody can therefore learn a bit more about Eliot. However, for Donor Subscribers there will be an extra level. In the “Inklings and Friends” area of the Archived Articles section of the blog I’ll publish some further blog posts that go further with the reading assignments. Donor Subscribers have access to the comments box, so those who wish to can join in the book club conversation, ask questions, make comments and observations. This way all readers can join in, but Donor Subscribers can get a bit closer and discuss things together as part of an online community. If you want to become a Donor Subscriber just go here. The book club will be available to subscribers at all levels and remember, you can cancel your subscription whenever you want.

Now a bit more about the Benedictine Way. St Benedict calls his monks to make three vows: obedience, stability and conversion of life. The first vow of obedience is crucial. At first Benedict calls his monks to a military kind of obedience–obedience without question. However, later in the rule he says the monks must all be “obedient to one another.” In other words, the vow of obedience is a training ground. Through obedience the will is broken and re-made the way a broken bone that has healed wrongly must be broken and re-set. Benedict says the monk should learn obedience to the Abbot so that when the Lord calls him, like the boy Samuel, he will be ready to respond with a joyful and willing heart. At the root of all this is the simple prayer at the heart of all things: being able to say “Thy Will be Done” not “My Will be Done.”

Where do we learn obedience? In everyday life we take obedience for granted. I obey red lights. I obey the speed limit (well sometimes anyway….) I obey my bishop. Who do you obey? Everyone has someone to whom they owe obedience, but too often in our society we have sung with Frank Sinatra “I did it My Way!”. We disregard the church’s teachings if we think it does not suit us. We disregard the guidelines and rules God has given, and eventally the disobedience comes home to roost. The path of disobedience leads to loneliness, alienation, confusion and fear because when you go wandering off on your own it is not long before you are lost.

Maybe during the lockdown we can learn the obedience that eventually turns into genuine service of God and service of others, and maybe this can be a real heart’s turning.

After today Lockdown Diary will move from a daily blog post to twice a week or weekly update.

Scripture from the Divine Office Morning Prayer

Lord, you have been our refuge
  from generation to generation.
Before the mountains were born,
  before earth and heaven were conceived,
  from all time to all time, you are God.
You turn men into dust,
  you say to them “go back, children of men.”
A thousand years in your sight
  are like yesterday, that has passed;
  like a short watch in the night.
  • If you are housebound Shipt is an online service that provides people to shop for you and deliver to your door.
  • The Formed program has a vast collection of “Faith At Home” resources. Go here.
  • BreadBox Media has lots of free Catholic podcasts. Go here.

Prayer Requests

  • That the faithful may soon return to the sacraments
  • For a speedy end to the coronavirus crisis
  • For health care workers and key supply line workers
  • For all those suffering from the virus.