One friend who keeps this globe spinning for me with rare and brief walks around the grounds in Oregon is Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, a poet, theologian and Benedictine monk. When I met him at Mount Angel Abbey years ago—our connection being our favorite poet the monk Gerard Manley Hopkins—Abbot Jeremy wasn’t head of the Abbey. Now he is simply that, still deeply human, still concerned about what is happening to this world, still happy to ruffle a dog’s fur, scooting across the quad for a second before Compline to say, “I just wanted to say hi to Luke.” Here is what he wrote in his introduction to A Monk’s Alphabet a decade ago: “Life is lovely, life is hard...that is why I thought of sharing my alphabet....” He notes that black-robed monks may be viewed by visitors as exotic animals at a zoo, but he resists the exotic for the normal, the deeply real. “My monastic life has given me the space to think about things that we all care about and have to face.... Life poses huge questions. Terrible questions, glorious questions.” Then he wades right into his monk’s alphabet, starting with Airplane, Anniversary and Anselmo. Check out his disarmingly connective videos —weekly thoughts during the pandemic— at the Abbey website. Often he reaches through the camera toward the viewer and spreads his arms in circles, just as he ruffled Luke’s fur last February, when Luke and I stayed a week and tried to be still and know something, about a week before the West was no longer innocent of viruses. The word caritas comes to mind when I see him speak. He might shake his head and joke, “No, I just care.”
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