Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ascending Mount Equinox

Statue of a Carthusian monk  on Mount Equinox

Dear Parishioners,

In one location in all of North America can you find a Carthusian monastery.  After my annual retreat a couple of weeks ago with two of my priest-friends, we happened to chance upon the presence of this unique religious order as we drove through the autumnal mountains of Vermont.

Who are the Carthusians?

The Carthusian order was founded by St. Bruno in 1084.  Throughout the world there are approximately 450 Carthusian monks and nuns who live a solitary life as hermits—strict contemplatives.  They consecrate their lives entirely to prayer and to seeking God in the secret of their hearts.  They intercede for the Church and for the salvation of the whole world through a life of solitude, living in a small room or cell.  They talk to each other only once a week for about four hours after they share a midday meal and take their Sunday walk.

While visiting Hildene, the historic home of Robert Lincoln (the son of Abraham Lincoln) in Manchester, Vermont, we realized its close proximity to the Carthusians.  They lived on nearby Mount Equinox.  We decided to try to find out more.  We located the entrance to Mount Equinox Skyline Drive at the foot of the mountain and we were permitted, although reluctantly because of rain and poor visibility, to head up the mountain.  While we were not allowed to enter the monastery because of their strict rule, we ventured to a visitor center (The St. Bruno Scenic Viewing Centeratop the mountain that told the story of the monks.  We ascended the mountain to its summit—an elevation of 3848 feet.

Up winding roads and a various sharp curves in the rain, made even more treacherous because of the slippery falling leaves on parts of the roadway, we climbed slowly toward the top.  When we neared the visitor center the rain and the winds were torrential, gusting in the range of 75 miles per hour!  What did we get ourselves into?

Once in the visitor’s center, we met the caretaker and she began to converse with us and tell us a few stories about the monks.  Soon she received an urgent call on her radio from the foot of the mountain:  “Get the three priests off the mountain!”  We saw clearly the conditions were truly hurricane-like as our building on the summit shook while it was pelted by fierce rain and winds.

Down the mountain ever so slowly, clinging to and praying our rosaries with great supplication for our safety, we finally reached the bottom of the mountain.  Phew!

Afterward, one of the priests with me wrote a spiritual reflection of our experience for his parish.  I share part of it with you: 

The spiritual life can be treacherous.  This world will throw so much at us to try to frighten us, to deter us from reaching our goal and to attempt to hold us from the peace that God alone can give.  Every one of us must ascend the mountain to find God.  Not literally of course, but the mountain that is our heart.  May we all seek the Lord every day and stop giving into the buffeting winds of the world.
I hope to see you at the summit!

Fr. Ed Namiotka


The Saint Bruno Scenic Viewing Center (on a clear day!)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Je Me Souviens

Dear Parishioners,

After finishing our Trappist retreat at the Abbey of the Genesee, my two priest-friends and I decided to spend a couple days in Canada.  Our destination was Montreal, Québec. We had been there briefly last year, visiting a few of the religious sights and we wished to return to spend a bit more time in this beautiful city with such a rich Catholic past.

Our first stop was the famous Oratory of St. Joseph at the highest point of the city.  There we prayed at the burial place of St. André BessetteBrother André (as he was better known) of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, was the humble porter responsible for the building of this massive basilica dedicated to the honor of St. Joseph.  Then it was off to the old part of the city where we visited the famous Notre-Dame Basilica and the Notre-Dame-de-Bons-Secours Chapel.  In the chapel, we prayed at the tomb of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, Canada’s first woman saint, who founded the Congregation of Notre Dame.

The next day it was off to the Co-Cathedral of Saint-Antione-de-Padoue (St. Anthony of Padua) in Longueuil, Québec where we found the remains of Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher entombed at a side altar.  Blessed Marie-Rose was the foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.  It just happened to be her feast day (October 6) and we arrived to observe a special celebration with the bishop in this co-cathedral.

All through our travels in this part of French Canada known as Québec, we could not but notice the tremendous Catholic influence on the history of the people.  The streets, buildings and various other locations had Catholic saint names.  The many Catholic churches were a magnificent tribute to the honor and glory of God, filled with the stories of saints and martyrs.

The license plates of the cars of Québec province carry the interesting motto: Je me souviens (I remember).  What exactly does it mean?  On June 24, 1895, Canadian historian Thomas Chapais, during a speech given for the occasion of the unveiling of a statue honoring a military hero, said the following:

My hope and prayer is that they (and we) remember the rich Catholic faith that is such an important part of our tradition.  In this Year of Faith, may we remember the North American martyrs and the many holy saints and founders of religious orders who worked tirelessly to bring and to establish our Catholic faith on this continent.

May their many sacrifices never go in vain.  May we, as Catholics, remember who we are and where we came from, now and forever.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Co-Cathedral of St. Anthony of Padua, Longueuil

The Oratory of St. Joseph, Montreal