Monday, April 13, 2009

Monastic Humor

There are certain very counter-cultural things that monks and nuns have trouble explaining to the outside world. They invariably make their way into stories or jokes. Killian McDonnell, OSB, an 84-year-old poet and monk at Saint John's Abbey, has a poem about losing "Car C." The monks and nuns have a community car system, so they "check out" a car, and sometimes they forget what car they have, let alone where they parked it. In Father Kilian's poem, he writes about parking at a large shopping mall, forgetting what the car looked like, and going down the row trying the keys in every car. Security comes to check this out, of course, and do not understand what he means when he says he is driving "Car C" and cannot tell them the make or model. When they look at his driver's license, they realize he is a monk.

In the newsletter for Assumption Abbey in Richardton, North Dakota, there was another of these stories last week. It seems a few of the brothers went by plane to a conference in California. One of the monks got stopped, however, by airport security. There was something metal in the lining of the coat. It turned out to be two .22 shells. How to explain? The monks (and the Sisters) get their clothes from a common room where donations are collected and available. The coat had clearly belonged to a North Dakota gun owner before making its way to the abbey clothing room. Eventually, too, this gentle monk was let go and proceeded to the gate.

At Saint Benedict's Monastery, clothing and other donations are distributed from "Aunt Laura's Closet." Sister Laura was quite fashionable and for a long time ran this ministry for the hundreds of Sisters. (Like all the Sisters ever mentioned in any story, the Sister speaking of her gets a sparkle in her eye-- these Sisters express their love for everyone in their community every time they talk.) One of the current novices, in her second year at the monastery, loves "shopping" at Aunt Laura's. The first year at the monastery she "gave up" Aunt Laura's for Lent. Not so this year. She found it was just a distraction, as she planned what she would get as soon as she was able to return on Easter Monday. This year, she simply tried to detach from Aunt Laura's a bit more, but continued with weekly trips to see what had arrived and pick out a garment or two. At Aunt Laura's you are encouraged to return an item for each item you take. In that way, it is like a large lending library for clothing and household goods. I only know of one Sister for whom this suggestion had to be made a requirement. I believe Aunt Laura's Closet is also where many gifts to the Sisters go. I'm wondering if it's where the two gifts/prizes I've been given/won came from-- a planter filled with bath goods and a brand new teddy bear.

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