Last week I presented a paper at a philosophy conference on Alasdair MacIntyre at St. Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana. It is a Benedictine monastery with medieval-style architecture, and visitors are allowed to pray the hours with the monks (in separate seats). I was able to participate in praying the hours during the five days I was there. The church bells ring at 4:30 AM. And then they ring again non-stop from 5:15 AM to 5:30 AM, to call everyone to 5:30 morning prayer (matins and lauds). Then there is time for work, and then Mass at 7:30 AM, and then work, and then the bells call us to noon prayers (sext), and then work, and then 5 pm vespers. I couldn't tell for sure, but it seemed to me that they chant all the Psalms at least once a week. The life in the town of St. Meinrad seems to be shaped and structured by the ordered life and rhythm and culture of the monastery. The Benedictine charism is "ora et labora" (prayer and work). The chanting of the monks was amazingly beautiful and ancient. (Imagine the Ents of Fanghorn chanting a Psalm, and you get the idea.) Some of the monks are known experts on Gregorian chant, and how it was done in the later part of the first millennium and the middle ages. One of the monks, I was told, is 107 years old. The Benedictine order is a continuous tradition that began with St. Benedict, who was born in the fifth century, about fifty years after St. Augustine died. The overall experience being there is hard to put into words. When I came back to St. Louis Sunday evening, I experienced something of a culture shock. I felt like I had dropped back out of heaven, and fallen to earth, from timelessness, back into the flurry of the temporal, and into the shallowness of the glittery and sensually contingent and ephemeral.
While I was gone, Jason Stellman, a Presbyterian pastor and author of a blog titled "De Regnis Duobis", posted a series of articles, starting here, in response to my post "Michael Brown on Sola Scriptura or Scriptura Solo"". Michael Brown also just posted a reply to me on his own website here. I haven't had a chance to read these posts, but I look forward to reading them. A quick glance suggests that they are cordial and respectful, and I'm very grateful for that. A patient, prayerful and charitable dialogue is, in my opinion, the seedbed for eventual reconciliation and reunion between Catholics and Protestants. I hope to write a reply in the next few weeks.
"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)