Sunday, June 7, 2015

Blending In, Like Whoopi

Few people knew Fr. Chrysogonus Waddell, monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, like I did.  While he still walked this earth, we talked to one another frequently, working our way through the many liturgical pitfalls and personalities of any given season.  I always looked forward to our calls – and delighted in them, in the midst of all his serious scholarship.

One of the things he liked to talk about – a lot – was movies.  I remember him being enthralled with the movie "Sister Act" when it came out (how he got to watch all this stuff I'll never know).

When given the opportunity, Chrysogonus could do a wicked Maggie Smith imitation, his normal speaking voice settling in somewhere between Yoda and John Cleese.  He preached a homily to the Folk Choir on one of our visits; perched in his 6'4" frame in front of the ensemble, he threw out the great admonition a la Mother Superior (Maggie Smith) as they were about to wreak havoc on a Vegas casino:  "ALL RIGHT,  SISTERS!  BLEND IN!"

Chrysogonus' point in this homily was actually pretty profound:  it is the duty and joy of a believer to both blend in – and yet be conspicuous at the same time.  Having a bunch of nuns running around a gambling hall in Sin City pretty much proved the point.

Here's a spoiler:  we're back from Australia now.  I'm writing these posts back in the Bend, and I've got plenty of material to work with from our pilgrimage.  But the sad fact is that I was just overwhelmed between traveling, hosts, and liturgical responsibilities to keep up with the blog.  But maybe that's a good thing, because I can be a bit more thoughtful now that we're not keeping dogged hours on a bus.

My last blog was written in Canberra, capital city for the Australian nation.  But here's just one more musing from that city:  the night we sang at St. Christopher's Cathedral in that beautiful metropolis, we did exactly what the old Trappist monk would've wanted us to do – blend in.

Sometimes, it's best when a choir doesn't act like a choir.  In other words, instead of a great expanse of space separating the singers from the congregation (from the gallery, for instance, or parked up in the apse), at times the better solution is to blend into the assembly.  We did this at all of our vesper stops – Canberra/St. Christopher's Cathedral included – electing to put ourselves in the midst of those who had gathered to hear us.

But there were other times when conspicuous witness was simply what needed to be done. Especially at airports.  But I'll talk about that soon.

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