Cleaning Out


I am on another small journey inward. I have a way of dramatizing the minutiae of my life, but it helps me cope. As I try to cope, someone else may find encouragement to make and inner journey of moves they are being called on to make. I hope at least someone can relate to this mini-drama.

I have been asked by my superior to vacate the room I have been living in for the past 20 years so that it can be used for other purposes. He is perfectly within his rights and I accept the order with a good deal of peace.

The move, however is challenging me to downsize the belongings that clutter “my house.” The following is a quote from a letter on the subject.

I have been asked to move into another cell. I am using the process as another spiritual journey of sorts. I am letting go of an accumulation of stuff over the years. Each item or page has its story as a part of my life, but no one else would give a hoot. So I am squeezing them out and tossing them.

It is a custom here, as perhaps everywhere, that when a monk dies his door is locked. Fr. Abbot may look through things. The archivist is ordered to look, then the librarian. After that the house prefect cleans out the room, discarding most of the contents. If something is thought to be of value to someone else, such items are placed on a table in the Calefactory for anyone to pick up.

Most monks who have died do not see this final step. I get to watch my precious items being pawed over, taken or rejected. Some of my stuff is now in other cells. Some of it went quickly. I suspected some went too quickly and I found them in the trash barrel. Someone must have felt it was an insult to put them out. It is a judgment call. I felt a little wounded, but it put my detachment to the test.

I had a guitar, two clarinets, a metronome, and lots of music. I hadn't played the guitar in years, and the chromatic harmonica dating from the 30s hadn't been touch in years, but parting with that section of my life was like a kind of lobotomy.

The same way with my calligraphy tools, pens, pencils, pads of special paper and practical booklets on the art itself. I had spent about three years using what free time I could spare practicing. I had a dream of promoting a manuscript book of the Gospels for special Feasts. I never presumed I would do the book, but I wanted to make the effort at a stab at it to encourage the more skilled among us to do the job. The last piece I did was the Gospel for the Easter Vigil. It was a decent piece, and was used by the Deacon. Actually I did not see it in use, as I had been sent to Fort Knox for pastoral service that weekend. That having been done, I lost all interest and have not taken up any of those tools since, and that is over 20 years ago. I kept thinking that I might take it up again when I got older. I am older and I see no sign of change. It is time to let go.

I have also cleared my bookshelves of what I have considered essential tools, Dictionary of Theology, Bible Atlas, German Dictionary, Jerome Biblical Commentary, Homily manuals, books by Marmion, etc. I put out about 15-20. I am pleased to see that most of them are gone. I am not giving up all study or homily preparation, but I can get access to the tools I need in the Library.

I do not think I have been excessively attached to my stuff, but it was a part of me, and my past. It hurts a little to sever myself from my past, but I will be traveling lighter. Hopefully, parting with such "friends" may ease the later stages of my journey to eternity.

Well, you get the idea. For give these musings of an old man trying to keep a young heart.

Copyright © 2003 Saint Meinrad Archabbey