Friday, April 16, 2010

Some Reflections on my visits to Clear Creek

At Tancred’s suggestion, I have agreed to broaden the scope of the Eponyomus Flower to include entries of general Catholic interest that do not directly involve a news story. While a great many people find my insights provocative, I have never had the time or energy to keep a blog of my own. A few years ago, I sometimes contributed to the Cornell Society for a Good Time’s blog ( to usually pleasant results. Those of you willing to go through entries from years ago will find my contributions there under the name “Maximilian Hanlon,” which I shall continue to use here.

For my first entry, I would like to reflect upon my visits to Clear Creek Monastery, truly the future of the Church in the U.S. The first thing that catches the eye is its edifice. The monks there are clearly intent upon founding a monastery that shall last for centuries and have enabled a distinctively American kind of Catholic architecture to emerge. While it certainly possesses roots in Catholic Europe, this architecture is somehow also distinctively American, a rare combination indeed! The iron working on the doors is especially impressive, reminding one of The Lord of the Rings, and has inspired similar ornaments at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Nebraska.

More importantly, the architectural beauty one finds there is nothing less than a physical manifestation of the inner life and spiritual beauty of the community. Upon one glance, one knows that those monks are there to experience God and become holy through the twin Benedictine imperatives of ora et labora. I can breathe freely there, for by being absolutely faithful to the historic standards of monastic life as laid down in St. Benedict’s Rule, the community has utterly rebelled against the foul spirit of Vatican II (not the Spirit of God) which would have all Church institutions geld themselves so as to avoid offending modern man. Indeed, the monks at Clear Creek know two things all too well that have been almost lost through cultural amnesia: A) Modern man’s (henceforth “Brad Craven”) comfortable, infecund, economically stable, suburban life is not worth living; and, B) Only recourse to the Tradition on its own, sometimes scandalous and unpleasant, terms can save him. And so we come to Latin and the Liturgy.

Some French visitors to the monastery during my last visit complained to me that the chanting at Clear Creek is mediocre. While I am sure that by French standards they are correct, I must insist that it is the finest I have encountered in North America. “Super-reality” comes to mind as the best way to express the intensity of the Divine Office. Humbling oneself to chant back and forth the psalms as millions of Catholics across the ages have known and loved them plunges one into the timelessness of the Church. The realization quickly descends that this is the culture that saved Europe from the Dark Ages and gave us the West, this simple monastic culture of chanting the old psalms back and forth for four hours each morning followed by planting squash or washing windows or painting the side of a barn. Truly, terribilis est locus iste, truly this is the closest thing to paradise before the Great Divide.

All of this is just to say that the Liturgy at Clear Creek is truly living. To please some in Rome, they have made some adjustments to the traditional Missal. Whenever a liturgical office precedes High Mass (which happens almost every day), the prayers at the foot of the altar are dispensed with, as is the Last Gospel. Whoever presides at said Mass (be he Abbot or no) presides from the throne, where he intones the Gloria and Credo. Deacon and Subdeacon chant the lessons into a microphone, versus populum. The high altar can be circumambulated and all the monks “participate” by singing the full propers each day and by exchanging the sign of peace. In these respects, the conventual Mass wreaks of the Novus Ordo, but the changes are not all bad. On their own authority, without Imprimatur or Nihil Obstat, Clear Creek published its own “Supplement to the Roman Missal” last year, in which are found their textual deviations from the Missal of 1962. These include incorporating some of the prefaces from the new Missal as well as reconciling what can be salvaged from the new sanctoral cycle with the old. Again we can breathe free, exulting between the two extremes of modern liturgical shitiness and a petrified, stultified, and lifeless traditionalism. The result is men fully alive, rooted in their tradition but engaging the future, and truly flourishing.

It goes without saying that those of you, my readers, who are willing to escape the spiritual abortuary which is the post-modern world, should take refuge at Clear Creek at once. Although life for me would be easier as a monk, I have discerned quite a different call, the call to follow Christ my Master in his descent into hell. And make no mistake about it, the contemporary world is a contemporary hell, filled with men like Brad Craven. He likes Starbucks, listens to Hip-hop on his ipod, lives in the suburbs, derives economic security from his job as a paper-shuffler, thinks that unwanted kittens should have rights but not unwanted fetuses, has a master’s degree (although he does not know what ineffable means) and voted for President Obama. Brad, of course, likes all the Vatican II changes, thinks the Church just needs to “get with it,” and may attend Mass once or twice a year around an especially groovy coffee table disguised as an altar, but feels alienated by vibrant, young religious communities which are praying in Latin and therefore growing. I have the much more unpleasant vocation of trying to evangelize Brad and wake him up from his post-modern stupor. But perhaps you, should you be blessed with a monastic vocation and get to the monastery soon, may escape such people forever. Lucky you.


Tom Patrick Kiser said...

Nice change of pace.

JWY said...

I enjoyed the post!

Matthew said...

Very entertaining. Hopefully the liturgical innovations will cease with the new abbatial status.

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