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Ferial: 4 June 2012

Against a night of deep dreams of travels through China and Mongolia, the product of Larium taken religiously each Sunday night, I look out across the lake and the doubled image of dawning color and cloud formations.  From veiled horizon, purple shadows become distant mountains.  Opposite, lurking above the village of Butare, itself lurking over a precipice, a fat yellow full moon, etched into swirls of clouds outlined in the sallow moonlight…

I am in a monastery of African Trappists plus one French monk.

I am in the middle of Masisi Province, up a road, that three weeks prior, was closed on account of machine gun fire.

I am alone, without Internet, reduced to small occasional calls out on an old simple cell phone.

I spend my days transplanting plantings of passion fruit and tropical yams, in mud reclaimed from the reeds around the lake, and performing a sort of triage on sacks of dried beans, on a stool outside the kitchen.  And inside the kitchen: making garlic and tomato sauce.  And: praying the Office.  And: lectio divina.


And: discussing Mounier and Gaudium et spes and Segundo and Heidegger and Sartre and Camus and Fellini and Godard and hip-hop and Foucault and Resnais and Robbe-Grillet and Duras and Boulez and l’Article 15 and Algerie and Obama and Bush.  And: in a monastery, without Internet (struck down three weeks back by lightning), without T.V., without fax, without the nightly news.

I am a muzungu: first, front and center.  Before all else.  Complete with fictions and assumptions and questions and allowances and dismissals.

Being so objectified, as benign as it can be at times, in certain circles and circumstances, it still cannot help but be felt.

Despite the work, despite the observances, despite the attendance at the Office, despite the crucifix always around the neck, despite tattoos always covered in public.  Despite trying to be small, and to not count.

And it is on account of all of this flurry of intellectual inquiry, here, in of all places a cloistered sacred space up atop a massif, by a lake, surrounded by tribal unrests and political uncertainties…

And it is on account of this intellectual action, made less special by a concurrent tendency here, by some, as it is with people in general everywhere, to default to discounting and dismissing the other, judging illegitimate the other’s “legitimate strangeness” (René Char), and judging themselves unwittingly unworthy, in the process of so judging, of God’s forgiveness and His mercy: et dimítte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris… a razor’s edge all Christians court each time they bow their heads and pray their Lord, their Lord’s Prayer (see Christ, in his own words, Mark 11:25, and especially 26).

If we cannot all count… as sinners and fellow travellers…

If we cannot all simply walk away and let the other rest in the remains of the moment, complete with their ignorance, missteps, follies, trespasses, outbursts, hostilities, sinfulness, blunders… trusting in God, to do the judging and the pronouncements and the forgiving, through His mercy, according to His plan, in His time.

If we cannot cross the street, leaving behind our sanctimony and certainties, and give fully of ourselves to the bloody fellow traveler, the prostitute, the leper, the discounted and the persecuted and the unloved, left for dead or worse or the same, in the proverbial gutter…

If we cannot move past dogma and convention and propriety, and welcome into our arms any and all prodigals…

If we cannot seek somehow to readily share what is asked of our possessions, without running a sort of equivocating sidestep…

If we cannot…

If I cannot…

What good is confession constantly the day after…?

What good is hoarding the sacraments…?

What good is genuflecting and crossing one for all to see…?

What good is arguing Aristotle and Augustine and Gutiérrez and Torres and Ratzinger?

What good is attendance if attending becomes an excuse against engagement outside cloistered safe zones?

What good is being good when there is no risk and no danger and no challenge ever at all?

Fellini and Foucault are fun but they both don’t mean diddly to the man shunned by his village and allowed to rot alone, in a dark hovel, from AIDS.  Or the child, orphaned by war, and trapped into servitude to a distant aunt.  Simple as that:

“… He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.” (Luke 1: 51)

O Lord, come to my assistance:


“For when I am weak, then am I powerful.” (2 Cor. 12: 10)


O Lord, come to my assistance:


“For he that loveth his neighbor, hath fulfilled the law.” (Rom. 13: 8)


O Lord, come to my assistance, for:


“To extend one’s self-giving beyond familiar circles is to lose all the security of one’s own way of life and to confront unknown demands.” – Juan Luis Segundo, 1968


O Lord, come to my assistance, for:


“… Any theological-pedagogical event is also, but not only, a complex and minute series of exercises of power, in which bodies, selves, and traditions are being ‘written’ and ‘rewritten.’” – Tom Beaudoin, 2004; 2008


O Lord, come to my assistance, for:


 “Abba Joseph of Thebes said: ‘Three things are honoured in the sight of the Lord. The first is when a man is weak and temptations come upon him, and yet he accepts them with thanksgiving. But the second is when every act a man performs is pure before God and contains nothing human.  And indeed the third is when one places himself in subjection to the commands of a spiritual father, and renounces all self-will.’” VERBA SENIORUM, 4th C., A.D.


O Lord, come to my assistance, for:


One of the brothers asked Abba Isidore the priest of Scete: ‘Why are the demons so violently afraid of you?’ And the old man said: ‘Ever since I became a monk, I have been trying not to let anger rise as far as my mouth.’”  VERBA SENIORUM, 4th C., A.D.


O Lord, come to my assistance, for the demons circle me, in my dreams, every night, and hardly have fear of me.