The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on January 10, 1986 · Page 22
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 22

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Salina, Kansas
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Friday, January 10, 1986
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Page 22
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The Sallna Journal Friday, January 10,1986 PageN4 Former chaplain working to found first new order of monks in 700 years • OAKDALE, Neb. (AP) - The road to monastic seclusion is narrow, anything but straight, and paved all the way with ruts, mudholes and jagged, oil pan-bending boulders. "If you can't make it up to the monastery, stop off at my farm and borrow the horse," suggested Dick Cnilds, in all Nebraska seriousness, at the gas station in town. The car bogged down, but Father Clifford Stevens, the founder and so far the only monk at the Monastery of Tintern, came to the rescue in a muddy front-wheel-drive vehicle. "The county promised to improve this road, but I'm not sure we want better accessibility," Stevens shouted over the engine knocks as the barn-like monastery came into sight around the last tortuous bend. "Our aim is to keep the world at a distance, not because it's evil, but because solitude to a monk is freedom, the freedom to pursue God with the intensity of a lover seeking a rendezvous with his beloved." The silence of the deep surrounding woods was broken only by a great blue heron lifting off over the dove- shaped pond with powerful flapping wings. Americans, Stevens regretted, have always looked down on the contemplative life as a waste of human resources, but .he summoned Albert Camus, the French existentialist, as a witness for the defense of solitude: "There are no more deserts. There are no more islands. Yet one still feels the need of them. To understand this world, one must sometimes turn away from it; to serve men better one must hold them at a distance." Stevens, a former Air Force chaplain who has flown at twice the speed of sound in an F-104 and once applied for astronaut training —' 'They never even answered my letter" — spoke enthusiastically of the joys of living a life of silence as he showed off the tiny, 8-by-12-foot rough pine cubicles where the monks would sleep on slat board beds and straw mattresses that would stir the inmates of Attica to bang their mess trays against the bars. "If Hugh Hefner can found a Playboy empire, I can help recover a tradition that has been lost for 700 years," he says in defense of his dream ot founding America's first monastic order, the Monks of Tin- tern, and the first new order anywhere since the Servites in the 13th Century. "Our community will be built on the four pillars of solitude, study, the chanting of the psalms and the celebration of the Eucharist," he continues, leading the way up a spiral staircase to the library and skylight- roofed chapel. "The monks will engage in no business or commerce. There will be Jamas Weaver 412 E. Mulberry 827-6244 Welcome this professional when he calls on you concerning high interest IRA's First Kansas Life Home Office - Newton, Ks. none of what Thomas Merton called 'Holy Jesus, Buy Our Cheeses.' The contemplative life is primary. When you have a business it becomes secondary and the monks become employees. "The problem with many monasteries today is the economic side has become the dominant side, selling wines, jellies, vestments and even shaving lotions. Some European nuns work in breweries and chocolate factories, and there's an American monastery turning out 15,000 loaves of bread a day." The 59-year-old priest sees modern Tintern, bom again from the ruins of 12th Century Tintern Abbey in Wales, as a theological think tank. But instead of hovering over an illuminated manuscript in the Theologiae Sacrae Sanctuarium — the reading room — the modern monk of Tintern would be bent over a video screen feeding input into a computerized theological data bank specializing in the works of Thomas Aquinas. The information stored would be made available to scholars around the world, "who could code into our network." Stevens envisions a community of scholars, sculptors, poets, potters and — above all — theologians. For 25 years he has been compiling his order's constitution. It outlines a 10- year training for the monks in philosophy, theology, research methods and a thorough grounding in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, the Biblical languages. Even after taking final vows and his ordination as a priest, the monk of Tintern will pursue advanced theological studies with video tapes, lectures and a tutorial system "similar to St. Johns at Annapolis." "I've had 300 inquiries already," enthuses Stevens. "Young people are weary of the materialism of the world and turning to God. It's not an escape, they're fleeing toward something." At that moment the phone rang. A priest from Atlanta, a specialist in canon law, was interested in joining the community. "Within 10 years," Stevens was telling him, "there will be monasteries like this in every state. We are witnessing a vast explosion of the ascetic life." Over coffee, the founder monk, awaiting his first novices, admitted that "realistically only one in 20 will stay. It's like medical school, but requiring greater commitment. The monks will spend the rest of their lives here. I have a lovely graveyard picked out in a grove of cottonwoods near an old Pawnee burial ground." In Protestant northeast Nebraska, where within the memory of the older farmers Ku Klux Klansmen burned crosses and Catholics defended their fields and churches with shotguns, Stevens donned the white-hooded robe with leather belt and wine- colored scapular or shoulder covering that he had designed for the Monks of Tintern. "It's a wash-and-wear fabric, not unbleached muslin like the monks' robes in the Middle Ages. I'm not an antiquarian and I'm not into nostalgia. This monastery has a washing machine, showers, a microwave oven and a Xerox instead of paintbrushes and parchment for copying manuscripts." Before retiring, he displayed a Lincoln, Neb., architect's rendering of a $3.2 million monastery, inspired by the ruins of Tintern Abbey, that he hopes will replace the barn structure within the decade. Progressive APPRECIATION DAYS Today, Friday, January 10 19 % EVERYTHING Off IN STOCK And Increases 1% Each Day Thru Saturday, January llth (20% Off On Sat.) ALL CHRISTMAS MERCHANDISE 40% Off You 'U Always Feel At Home At... The Koch's House Broadway & State St. Salina 825-2780 Bob & Sharon Koch, Owners Work is scheduled to begin on one wing in the spring. Dawn came with a golden pinkish glow, like stained glass, on the frost- rimed window of the guest cubicle, the rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee and, from the chapel overhead, a Gregorian chant in a resonant baritone. Even before the first novices arrive, Stevens endeavors to follow the horarium, or daily schedule, prescribed in his constitution and patterned after the sixth century rule of St. Benedict. He rises at 3 a.m. to chant the psalms greeting a new day. Time on the monastic clock is ticked off by the chanting of lauds, terce, sext, none, vespers and compline, which divide the day into periods of work, study, sung prayer and simple, meatless meals. Bedtime for the monk of Tintern is 8 p.m. His aim is to keep the life simple .and uncluttered. By the Middle Ages some monasteries had so expanded on the Benedictine rule that monks were told how to blow their noses "so as to give the least offense to the attending angels." Others administered vast estates, vineyards and copying houses in an atmosphere of silence through an elaborate system of hissing and sign language. "We will not use any sign language here. If anything important has to be said, say it," Stevens says over a breakfast of black coffee, plain bread and orange juice served against a background of more Gregorian chant pouring from a tape recorder. "Gregorian chant will be our only music. It's the best around, a precious treasure handed down by cen tunes of monastic tradition," he said, changing cassettes. "A lot of contemporary church music is just bad music. We've ended up with a country and western Mass." After his morning Mass, attended by several farm families who braved the road in their Sunday best and were rewarded with the celebrant's fine singing and no sermon and no collection, Stevens spoke briefly of his background. He was born in Brattleboro, Vt., the son of a chef who died when Clifford was 9. One day the famous Father Edward Flanagan came to lecture in town. (See Monk, page 5) I I PRKSHBR, JUICIBR, A BETTER TASTINQ SANDWICHES B»«f. Pork or Ham only $1.99 rag. % C O u p 0 N NOW W IQ OFF the second sandwich when you purchase the first at regular price with this coupon. ALSO INTRODUCING RIB DINNERS Op«n: Mon.-Sat. 11 am-9 pm, Closed Sundays DRIVE-THRU ONLY 1717 W. Crawford Call «h»«d to MV« time 825-1888 I I I The Grande Meal Deal vs. ust Another Burger Dea. QUALITY FOOD FROM MY FARM ONE BEEF — Your pick of a good choice steer from the herd. ROASTING EARS — One year's supply for your family. TOMATOES — All you can pick during the season for your family. 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OftiTpxJ only at lumcipatuiE Taco BcUrtttautants c i*" U..MI.T r.unx TACO 'BELL 1700 W. Crawford Open Late Nights Crown Carpet «tf A VA ^ ^fm . B Wicker Etc. NO PAYMENTS* INTERiSf* 'TIL APRIL 25th ON ALL CARPET & WICKER r WICKER TRUNKS Use for storage or kids' toy box. Many uses. Ret. $60.00 ~ ~ 99 3 PC. SWIVEL ROCKER GROUP 2 chairs and matching rattan table with glass top. Cushion's colors: Blue, Rust, Brown & Khaki. Ret. $604.00 369" 3 Pieces TWIN SIZE HEADBOARD Add spice lo your bedroom with a wicker headboard Full & queen available loo Re/ S75 00 95 MAHARLIKA CHAIR Comfortable, unique styling and a great price. Ret. $56.00 99 5 PC. DINING GROUP Beautiful 42" round glass top rattan table and 4 matching rattan chairs in blue, rust, brown & beige cushions. Ret. $785.00 549 9 5 Pieces SUNBURST SCREEN Tall three section screen for an accent piece or for privacy. Ret.'$90.00 99 3 PC. DINETTE GROUP Lovely set includes 2 high back banana chairs and • table with large glass top. 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