Monday, July 31, 2006

Giant Sequoia

In 1893, a train passed through Mt. Angel, Oregon. A Benedictine sister with sharp eyes was walking by the railroad tracks when she noticed that two tree seedlings had fallen off the train. Giant Sequoia seedlings. She took them back to the monastery and carefully planted them north and south of the monastery entrance. The nuns supplemented nature's water with dishwater, urging the seedlings to grow. The south tree eventually died, but the north tree is now the largest tree in Mt. Angel, towering over the monastery complex.

Some years ago, some young college men with a temporary brain dysfunction decided to pull a prank. They climbed the tree at night, carrying saws. When they were almost to the top they began sawing off limbs. They stripped an entire section of the tree, leaving a pile of limbs scattered around the base of tree. The nuns were heartbroken, and the young men got into major trouble.

Neither fines nor suspensions from school nor repentance can restore tree limbs. The perfect symmetry of the tree was broken. But the tree has continued to grow, and as the years pass, the limbless section of the tree is gradually being covered up with growing limbs from above. The tree is forever altered, but it is healing, and it is the official symbol of Queen of Angels Monastery--because of its flaws, and because it is a sign of the possibility of healing. What better background for a cross?

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Love Cross

My mind this morning is with all the sisters of Mt. Angel Monastery who were our hosts--and became our friends--during the past month. Structuring their common life in the way established by St. Benedict, they combine worship and work with great grace and with joyful commitment. They love God passionately, and they love God's world just as deeply. Theirs is no oblivious ivory tower or stone fortress, but rather a spiritual center out of which they serve their community, pray for peace between Israel and Lebanon, and ring a bell and say the name of every prisoner who is killed by the state--anywhere in the country, every time it happens.

I don't often make crosses out of crosses, but this cross--which sits atop the monastery in Mt. Angel, Oregon--developed four hearts in a circle when I applied my kaleidoscope effect. It's a sign of God's love for all as well as a sign of the sisters' love for God, for the earth, and for all people.
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