We had about 15 kids here on retreat from Kansas City for the weekend. This morning before Mass, I, along with two seminarians, facilitated a question and answer panel for the group. The kids were pretty tired and a bit quiet during the session (as young people usually are before noon), but they listened attentively while most of the questions came from the adults.
What do seminarians and monks do for fun? Do you have to wear your habit all the time? What are your job assignments? How long have you been in the monastery? Who rings the bells? How much time do you get for vacation? When did you first think about becoming a priest? What did you do before you entered the seminary or monastery?
I helped out with these question and answer sessions when I was a diocesan seminarian. Every time there were two seminarians and one monk, the monk always received more questions. I think there is something with the mystique of monastic life and the flowing black habit that we wear, and people are innately curious. I try to use a little bit of humor with the questions in order to get the kids’ attention. So, when asked what I did before entering the monastery, and what I did immediately out of high school, I tell them that I played professional baseball for three years. I get some looks of amazement, as their sleepiness immediately dissipates, before telling them that I am just kidding. The same is the case when they ask me if I wear my habit all of the time. I remark how I like to ride my bicycle when the weather is nice, but the scapular from my habit always gets caught in the bike tires.
I asked the group, what was the most interesting thing they learned from their weekend at the Abbey? One kid responded that it was good to know that monks had a sense of humor. I told the group that I wanted to create bumper stickers with the slogan, “Monks are people too.”
This evening I have Mass at St. Gregory’s in Maryville at 5:00pm and at the Newman Center on the campus of Northwest Missouri State at 7:00pm. I don’t know if it is proper liturgical terminology or not, but I refer to this as celebrating a “double-header.”