Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Spring in DC

A couple of weeks ago, we drove up to DC to visit with Max and his friends. And on the road trip, I got my first taste of Buc-ee's.  Excellent beef brisket! Friendly staff! Clean bathrooms with art on the wall. Very Texas! I'm so grateful Michael enjoys driving and is happy to make the long drive without my help. My job was to pick music, audio dramas, and navigate once we got closer to DC. I'd forgotten how horrendous the traffic is. Michael was glad to relinquish the keys to Max when we got there. He knows DC well given he takes the metro and rides his bike everywhere. It makes me happy to see him happy, but how I wish he were just a wee bit dissatisfied so that he could be thinking of working his way down to Charleston. I'm so grateful he takes the time to nurture all his relationships.   

We had such a good time sight-seeing. Went to Meridian Park. Loved the statue of Dante and St. Joan of Arc (she makes an appearance in my historical)! Later that evening Michael and Max had a nice smoke out on the porch. It got chilly so I stayed indoors to finish By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho. Such a beautiful story of young people discerning their vocation.

It was so moving to visit Arlington National Cemetery. Just thinking about how many people have died to secure the freedoms we enjoy makes my heart overflow with gratitude. I didn't realize that Arlington house was that of Robert E. Lee. Michael is reading his biography and he reads snippets aloud to me so it was doubly interesting to visit the house and gardens and know of the beginning of a national cemetery.

We had a picnic lunch at the arboretum and enjoyed walking about on the trails, admiring all the beautiful flowers. So many azaleas in bloom! I also loved the bonsai exhibit--I've always loved miniatures and the bonsai is no exception. Some were over 100 years old! 

Sunday was lovely. We heard Mass at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America. Such a simple and beautiful Gregorian chant Mass and in such a sacred space. Reminded me of this lovely quote of St. Augustine:  
Augustine of Hippo

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

The mosaics depicted all the mysteries of the rosary as well as many saints and scenes from the Bible. Ave Maria was shown in many different languages. I still haven't deciphered the heiroglyphics! The gardens and grottos were such a delight. To have this in the middle of the city is such a blessing to the residents. In this monastery we can never forget the roots of our Christian faith. It is Jewish. I'm especially reminded of this every time I sing the psalms--many of the chants date back to Jewish times. Pope St. Gregory only formalized what was already a practice. The monastery was having a garden sale--we brought home a banana plant! 

Finally, the main event: celebrating 25 years of the monks of Norcia. We were first introduced to them Michaelmas 2015 and how beautifully the community has grown! The brew-meister is a native of SC. He was a postulant when we first met, now a priest--Fr. Augustine. I know Michael would love to make a retreat there; maybe he will when he retires. I've known a few people who've gone there for a month and it is very difficult re-entering the world. I remember that the monks have a transition to make too, when they return to their quiet life in the monastery. They must decontaminate, if you will, from the worldly pleasures. I am so grateful that they do come out into the world to give us a taste of heaven. Ross Douthat spoke about his friendship with the monks, how chronic Lyme changed his life, how he became the beneficiary of the monks' prayers--he, along with his wife, Abigail Tucker, and their children were able to make a retreat at Norcia. The monastery is a lighthouse--it both points to the heavenly way, as well as being a beacon that draws people toward them. So many people are building their families in the shadow of what the monks have built, given the chaos of living in a post-Christian society. There's a renewal of religious life because we long for the transcendent. When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith? Yes! Perhaps it's only a remnant, but it's enough. Come, Lord Jesus! 


Mirka Breen said...

Great and enriching share. Thank you for it.
But you know what most stuck out for me? Your Max, like my son, has grown a beard. Once they do I find it impossible to think of them as kids. :P

Vijaya said...

It's funny, but I still think of my kids as kids even though Max sports a beard and Dagny is engaged to be married.

Carol Soisson said...

The monastery looks amazing. I will have to find it the next time I am in DC. Thanks for the lovely photos! And I'm glad you had a nice visit with Max.