Sunday, June 13, 2010

Visiting Alnmouth

Alnmouth is a tiny village in the far north of England, not far from Scotland. The brothers have lived here, in a rehabilitated house for a long time. I say "rehabilitated" because after it's salad days as a luxury home it became a night club ("and worse" as late Brother Edward might have said). You can just speculate about that...

As a friary it has been the staging area for missions throughout the North of England. Brothers are always coming and going out from this place, and it has hosted thousands of people seeking peace and quiet to sort through their life and vocation. Perched over the sea side it is a perfect place for mulling over the meaning of life.

But the friars don't let much moss grow on their feet. They are a busy lot, five of them hosting a steady stream of guests--cooking, cleaning, offering beautiful worship and attentive hospitality. The Franciscan flavor of it all is that there is no separation between guests and brothers. No separate guest house, no separate dining room, everyone included in the prayers and chapel life. Sometimes of course it can be a bit much, but as elegant as the surroundings are, it is all about poverty: no control over much of life, having to accept and thrive in the circumstances where we find ourselves, offering to God our longing to run away from it all and finding grace to be gracious--yet again and again. I admire all that they do.

Today, Sunday, we are getting ready for the annual Garden Open Day sponsored by the Rotary Club in the village. Rotarians are everywhere erecting tents and different games. It is a money making day to support various local charities. It's raining but everybody still expects a good turnout, as the English never let a bit of rain spoil their fun! The friars collaborate with the Rotary Club by offering the beautiful gardens as the site. So I have spent the week gardening: mowing the lawn, weeding, sweeping. I find these kinds of activities deeply healing, transporting me back to my adolescence when I worked as a lawn boy and all around jack-of-all-trades for various people. I lose myself in a dreamy state of mind, moving to rhythms of lawn mower and broom, bending, lifting, praying and giving thanks. Sometimes people express concern for my "busy life" not knowing it is only busy on paper. The actual living of it is slower than most peoples' lives. The only sacrifice is stability.

But what mendicant wants THAT?