“Shield me against my selfishness and my indifference to God and to my neighbor.”

~from the Novena to Saint Benedict

Early spring at the Weston Priory, a Benedictine monastery in Vermont, the monks garden is spare. You will note the bricks in the foreground with the message to “pray”. How fitting you might think.

In March, I and a group of Quaker men attended a retreat at the monastery. One of the group, my friend Ian, is a chimney sweep. When climbing to the top of chimneys in our region in Vermont and New Hampshire he often comes upon these bricks that read “pray”. I can imagine how Ian feels clinging to a ladder or roof for dear life, many, many feet from the ground. The bricks are always at the very top. A sure sign of the mason’s sense of humor.

Ian donated these antique bricks to the monks as a sign of friendship and good humor. They are not however what you think. They were not manufactured as a prompt to religiosity. They were made by the Pray Brick Company, Robert Ellsworth Pray proprietor, of Greenfield, Massachusetts from 1880 to 1920. Many buildings of that era in the region contain these bricks.

The monks of Saint Benedict do not necessarily need prompts to pray, they spend their lives doing it. Perhaps when they go to work iPrayn the garden they will remember Ian the Quaker chimney sweep and his friendship…

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Comment by William F Rushby on 4th mo. 9, 2016 at 12:48pm

When I was in graduate school, C. P. Loomis (one of my professors) argued that the early Anabaptists' skill as agriculturists owed much to the many monastics who joined the Anabaptist movement.  I had already visited the monastery at Monmorency Falls in Quebec when I was in summer school at McGill U.  I was fascinated.  Since then, I have never turned down opportunities to visit monasteries!

While at home in the Champlain Valley, we often visited the Weston Priory, usually with family members, but also sometimes with Mennonite friends.

When Darlene and I traveled to Boston, looking for help for her recurring and rare form of uterine cancer, we tried to do some vacationing when possible, particularly along the Bay and Cape Cod.  One late afternoon, we were traveling down Route One (?), and came across a sign indicating the presence of a monastery; it proclaimed "All are Welcome."  I said to Darlene, I guess that includes us, and we turned in at the entrance!

It was close to the time for late afternoon prayers, and we decided to stay, to pray with the monks!  As it turned out, Darlene was the only woman present.  Her voice could be distinctly heard among the males singing; the monastery was small, so there really weren't many people present.  As the worship concluded, one of the brothers approached us to welcome us.  When he found out why we were in Massachusetts, he told us he would pray for Darlene as she coped with cancer.

So, Roger, thanks for this story!

Comment by Roger Vincent Jasaitis on 4th mo. 10, 2016 at 12:07pm

And thank you William for sharing your story. Our Meeting's sign says "all are welcome" as well. An opportunity to cross-pollenate so to speak :-)

Comment by William F Rushby on 4th mo. 11, 2016 at 12:29pm

To give this thread an acoustic dimension: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqwV9l-U8ds&feature=share

Comment by Roger Vincent Jasaitis on 4th mo. 11, 2016 at 1:13pm

The monks at Weston have departed from the traditional music to a large extent. They write and sing their own Liturgy using folk instruments (guitar, hand drums, flute, etc.). You can find their music on their website; http://westonpriory.org/music.html

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