Bishop Joseph is 90 years old. He was bishop of Portland, Maine, from 1989 until 2004, after which he returned to the monastery, where he is now the second oldest monk. Father Cecil, also 90, is a couple of months older. When I visited last summer they were celebrating the 70th anniversary of their taking their first vows.
Here is a picture of Fr. Cecil, l., and Bishop Joseph, r., at a lunch in honor of the new novice last summer.
When I visited in 2014, I learned that Bishop Joseph was master of novices, which I thought was wonderful, both because he was still capable of doing the job of training the newest members of the community and because they would be learning from the depth of tradition there. (A couple of years later Father Peter, who has been around since 1959, took over, and last year, Father Anselm, who joined in 1998 became both prior and novice master.)
Bishop Joseph has been slowing up over the past few years. Father Cecil can still walk unaided but uses a device he can sit on to go more than short distances, and has done so for several years. Bishop Joseph walked with a cane for the past several years, but now he uses a walker. This presents a problem in the refectory, where the food is served buffet style. It would not be possible for him to carry dishes while holding on to the walker. But the problem was easily solved, as I saw at dinner the first evening of my visit this month. Brother Titus, one of the two men who became novices last January, takes a plate and accompanies him along the buffet line, putting what he wants on the plate. When the bishop is seated with his food at the abbot’s table, Brother Titus goes back and gets his own food.
Brother Titus is at the far left in this photo. The others, from left, are brothers Aloysius, who had taken first vows a few days earlier, Basil, who had become a novice that morning, Francis, in vows for three years, and Dunstan, who had become a novice with Titus six months earlier.
Titus, far right at haustus. The others are, l.-r., a guest, Brother Basil, and Abbot Mark.
At other times I noticed Brother Titus accompanying the bishop as he was walking. At breakfast, brother Titus arrived with Bishop Joseph and helped him get his meal as usual, but he finished and left before the bishop had finished. The custom at breakfast is that the monks carry their dishes back to the kitchen when they are finished. (At lunch and dinner, they move them to the edge of the table for the kitchen staff to remove after the meal.) Since bishop Joseph wouldn’t be able to bus his dishes, when other monks were finished, they would go and get any dishes he was finished with and take them, along with their own, to the kitchen. On my second and third mornings there, I was pleased to be able to perform this service when I had finished my breakfast.
It is an example of true brotherhood that the monks support one another in this way.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned my icon giving before. It began with my visit in June 2014, when I learned that then-brother, now Father would take his final vows in July, and the novices Paul and Ignatius would take simple vows then. I managed to get icons of their three patron saints and bring them to the vow taking. Subsequently, I gave icons to brothers Francis (2015) and Aloysius (2017) when they took their first vows. In anticipation of Titus and Duncan’s taking vows in January, I ordered an icon for each of them. The icon of St. Titus was delivered on December 10, the day before my visit, and the one of St. Dunstan is now in the hands of USPS, who promise delivery by 8:00 p.m., December 24. When I got to the monastery there was a note on the bulletin board (soon removed) congratulating the two novices on their acceptance into vows, which they would take on January 15. I’m not planning to trek up there for the event, but I have plenty of time to mail the icons.
As always, click the photos to enlarge.