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Issue Date:  September 2, 2005

From the Editor's Desk

A blessing in Vermont

I recently had occasion (the wonderful wedding of son, Daniel, and Erinn Rieth) to be in Vermont, good fortune enough, but that good fortune extended to staying in a home just a few miles from the Benedictine Priory at Weston.

My wife, Sally, and I had the opportunity to spend time with some of the brothers discussing the state of things in the priory, the church and the wider world before lunch one afternoon.

Vermont is one of those places where muscles you never knew you had begin to relax. Cell phones don’t work, cottages have no high-speed Internet access, The New York Times, if available, is always miles from where you are. Before long, God’s wonderful creation intrudes to such a degree that all the things that keep us wired recede to the background.

The priory amplifies that effect with its gracious and inviting liturgies and evidence all around of the brothers’ professed “radical equality” (ordained and nonordained alike are called Brother). In this time of crisis in the church, when the deeply troubled clerical culture is attempting to reassert itself in old ways, when some bishops are climbing back into feudal garb and practice, places like Weston priory are oases of authentically lived Christianity. I don’t mean that Christianity has to be lived in rural Vermont. This place in Vermont, as can be the case anywhere, is one of journey and discovery, of deep connection with the past and fearless consideration of the future. It is a model of church, light on hierarchy but by no means leaderless.

This was my third visit to the priory, the last more than a decade ago. Yet I have felt a consistent connection with it over the years because I have encountered so many Catholics, individuals and groups, for whom the place has meant so much.

It is a blessing well beyond its fields and gardens and barns.

~ ~ ~

Serious as the conversation with the brothers got at times, there were more than a few light moments. One of them had to do with an explanation about the llama seen walking around with a small herd of sheep. We learned that the llama was a “guard llama,” the idea being that the beast would kick any coyotes that had designs on the sheep. The llama, it seems, took the place of a “guard donkey,” who apparently either misunderstood her job description or viewed things far too seriously. The donkey, the brothers explained, took to herding the sheep in and out of the barn, and even, at least once, succeeded in locking the sheep up. The donkey did not believe in radical equality.

~ ~ ~

There is a powerful Catholic presence in another rural mountainous area, one known more for its poverty and environmental threats than for ski resorts and comfortable inns. Sr. Bernadette Kenny, more familiarly known as Sister Bernie, is a nurse practitioner who operates the St. Mary’s Health Wagon, a source of accessible health care to thousands of uninsured, underinsured or unemployed people in Appalachia. ( See story.) Anyone wishing to give this effort a boost can do so by visiting its Web site at [].

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, September 2, 2005   [corrected 09/16/2005]

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