When I learned that Father Meinrad Brune, OSB would give us good orderly direction at the 10/10/10 meeting of the Merrillville, Indiana Chapter of Benedictine Oblates of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, I emailed our chapter coordinator, Deacon Steve Zubel, and said: “I am so there!”
As Director of Benedictine Oblates for Saint Meinrad, Father Meinrad Brune wisely leads more than 1,100 Oblates nationwide in doing our level best to incorporate monastic principles into our daily lives. I am grateful to be among their number, and I gladly count Father Meinrad among the five most important figures in my life.
It was Father Meinrad who encouraged me to become an Oblate of Saint Meinrad Archabbey while I was on a retreat at Saint Meinrad in St. Meinrad, Indiana in 2001, and he has been guiding me along sound spiritual lines ever since he received my Final Oblation as Charles Bede McKelvy on December 14, 2002.
Plus, October 10, 2010 was supposed to be one of those harmonically convergent days anyway, so I reckoned the best way in which to celebrate was to head to Merrillville in time for the 10 a.m. Mass at St. Joan of Arc Church at 200 East 78th Avenue, just off Broadway and then stay for the chapter meeting with Father Meinrad immediately following Mass.
The weather on 10/10/10, as you all fondly recall, was heavenly, and so was the drive through the fall color show on Interstates 94 and 65.
I got to St. Joan in plenty of time for Mass, worshipped joyfully and songfully with my fellow Oblates and St. Joan parishioners, and then retired to the conference/choir room where Father Meinrad was patiently awaiting us in his black Benedictine habit. He has a habit of smiling warmly when he welcomes each and every one of us, and he certainly enlightened and encouraged us that fabulous fall day to diligently and joyfully do our duty of praying the Liturgy of the Hours “alone together.”
By that, the monk of 54 years meant that when we Oblates pray the daily Liturgy of the Hours in our homes, or while riding the train or bus to and from work, we form a spiritual connection with the monks of Saint Meinrad and all those around the world who follow this ancient tradition of greeting and ending each day with prayer.
“This prayer,” Father Meinrad told us, “has sustained the lives of the faithful for centuries.”
Noting that Saint Benedict himself allowed for lots of latitude in his famous The Rule of Saint Benedict, Father Meinrad told us to do our daily duty as best as our individual circumstances allow. When I told him my cat Makita often joined me for Lauds in the morning and Vespers in the evening, he chuckled and said cats are perfect prayer companions. Makita would certainly agree.
And I would certainly agree that we spent a most profitable time on 10/10/10 listening to a wise monk from Saint Meinrad tell us that when we are apart from one another we can be joined with one another in prayer, especially when we pray for one another.
Lots to think about, right?
Well, I certainly did not want to jump right back on the interstate after such a healthy helping of spiritual direction, so I turned right when I left St. Joan of Arc and headed north on Broadway.
As in: north on Broadway from 78th Avenue in Merrillville all the way to U.S. 12/20 in Gary, Indiana. A city, I should note, that some natives refer to as “Scary Gary.”
It was a great ride on a gorgeous day, and I didn’t think twice about hopping on I-94 when I passed over that congested “freeway.”
Nope, I kept on keepin’ on Broadway, and I saw and heard nothing but good vibes as I headed on up into the heart of Gary. A fellow on a moped gave me a friendly wave at one intersection, and I had no qualms about alighting from the car in downtown Gary for a photo session on foot. I took all the time I needed to capture one of the classic streetlights the city has installed along Broadway, and I even went “off Broadway” to appreciate a handsome brick building with the word “ART” emblazoned on it. I don’t know what that building once housed, but I certainly hope it will one day play an artistic role in a Gary renaissance that would benefit us all.
“Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” I mused as I made my way back to my car on Broadway. A man passed on foot as I was so musing, and he said with his friendly smile that he shared my goodwill for Gary.
And, in just a few blocks, I saw that good things are already happening in Gary at the U. S. Steel Yard where the Gary South Shore RailCats come out to play some great Independent League baseball every season, and, yes, I am so there next summer for a baseball story. Just as my wife Natalie and I planned to be so there at the Cathedral of Holy Angels in Gary on October 22 for the Chorus Angelorum concert at 8 p.m.
Gary, as one local billboard proclaimed, is overdue for a comeback, and after my trip up Broadway on 10/10/10, I think some really good artistic energy is percolating in Gary.
And, thanks to Father Meinrad, I had the peace of mind with which to pleasantly pursue such happy thoughts as I aimed my gracefully aging Honda Civic toward Michigan City and home in Harbert through the sun-dappled dunes and woodlands of our little corner of God’s green earth.