Sometimes little things come up out of the blue to fan the fire of my faith, just when it’s down to the glowing coals. The latest occurred a few weeks ago. I came across Adoro te Devote’s post about how she’s become entranced with icons, and I was struck immediately with the thought that, YES!, I too feel very drawn to their ethereal beauty and the peaceful feeling it gives me to simply gaze at an icon. I’d never thought about it either way before, but I suddenly decided that I must have one immediately, and started Googling around to learn more about them.
A few hours later, I got an email from my father’s cousin whom I correspond with occasionally. Someone emailed her a PDF of our Christmas newsletter in which I mentioned our conversion to Catholicism. She asked if I was aware that on our side of the family we’re related to a Benedictine monk (saying, “We thought it was very exotic to have a Catholic in the family!”). She mentioned that my grandmother once met him and they really hit it off, and he has a reputation for having the best sense of humor in the whole family.
A what? A monk? On that side of my family? I was shocked. Through my father’s side of the family I’m a seventh-generation Texan. That family tree is (so I thought) composed only of Baptist and Methodist country folks who haven’t been Catholic since one of our ancestors walked up to a church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517 to see what that piece of paper was on the door.
I would have been surprised to find even a stray lapsed Catholic through my father’s bloodline, let alone a Benedictine monk. My relative gave me his name and email address, and I looked up his monastery’s website based on the domain name on his email. A few clicks into the site I saw that the monastery had a profile for him. To my surprise and delight I found out what his work is at the monastery: He’s a master iconographer. Finding that out lifted my spirits and was one of those things that just sort of felt like it was more than a mere coincidence.
I emailed him and introduced myself, and we’ve been corresponding ever since. He’s sending me two scapulars that he had blessed (he sent me a photo of them still dripping with holy water), and a good book for me to read during Lent. It’s hard to explain exactly why it brings me such joy to be in contact with this long-lost cousin of mine. I suppose one reason is because I have a deep respect and admiration for those who follow the call to consecrated religious life in our modern, decadent society. It takes a rare person. To know that I’m actually related to someone like that is extremely surprising and inspiring.
Another reason is probably that it’s nice to think that I have a cousin who “gets it”, who believes that the Church and its teaching is so profoundly true and beautiful that it’s worth dedicating your whole life to. I don’t know many people like that, and it’s exciting to know one more.
And another reason is just my fascination with the rich simplicity of monastic life, particularly the Order of St. Benedict.
I could go on, but I’ll stop since you get the idea and I’m not sure it’s even possible to put my finger on why it’s such a delight to correspond with my cousin the monk. But every time I see his name in my inbox, and read his emails about what new book the brothers are reading or his work with an icon, it’s like a ray of light in my day.
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