The Bible: Crystal Ball or Mirror?

I know a little bit about the bible. I have an M.Div. for Christ’s sake; it’s one of three graduate degrees for Pete’s sake! I may no longer be an ordained Benedictine monk, but I sure as Hell sat through my share of biblical studies, theology, even Greek courses. Most of them were fascinating. I had a brilliant seminary professor, one of several like that, in fact, who approached the study of sacred scriptures from a literary-criticism perspective, steeped in critical hermeneutics, semiology, and philology…right up my alley. He planted the following image in my mind (I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.):

click on image to enlarge

Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey

Named after the “serrated mountain” of Montserrat located near Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain, the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat is as breathtaking as its setting. Among the thousands of visitors on the grounds of the abbey on Wednesday the 18th of May 2016 I actually saw one of the resident monks walk into the basilica. This drawing, which has helped smooth out some of my jet lag, is based on a photo that I took with my iPhone.


Procreate, iPad Pro, Apple Pencil.

Accelerated progress video.



When I was a novice working in and around the refrectory on kitchen duty, the old, German-speaking Benedictine nuns had a nickname for me (and others as well, truth be told), lumpensammler, the rag man. An occasional spitzbuben was heard too.

Freehand, photo reference. Procreate

Progress video.

Eighty Four, PA

There was an old monk whom I’d see on a daily basis back, oh, thirty some odd years ago. We’d have a similar encounter each and every day. For me it was repetitive; for him each exchange was brand new. He was familiar with Western Pennsylvania, my home region, and he somehow knew about Eighty Four, PA, which was not far at all from my hometown, Canonsburg, PA. Not surprisingly, the headquarters of 84 Lumbar is located right there in Eighty Four, PA.

At any rate, every time I’d see this old buck, the conversation went one of two ways. Half the time it went as illustrated below. When it didn’t go that way, he’d ask me if I was from Canonsburg. I’d say yes. Then he’d say: “I was just talking to a guy from Canonsburg.”

Rest in Peace, Cuthbert

On June 2, 2015 a friend and former confrère of mine, Fr. Cuthbert A. Jack, O.S.B., was laid to rest. You can read his obituary here. After his funeral the monks of St. Vincent Archabbey most certainly entoned the Benedictine Ultima, a rendition of which, accompanied by none other than Yo-Yo Ma, can be seen and heard by clicking on this YouTube link. See the Benedictine Ultima lyrics and sheet music below.

(Revised 6/12/15) Thirty five years ago Cuthbert and I – along with something like 13 others – were in the same, unusually large novice class. From that novice class only two remain, one at the abbey and the other at a parish not too far from the abbey. My condolences to them. Astonishingly, Cuthbert was the fifth to die from that group of novices. The others are off doing one thing or another. Read Cuthbert’s obituary; multiply it by 100. Why? He was a character for Christ’s sake!

See the three YouTube videos – inserted below – of Cuthbert making bread.


Procreate, Sty-HD stylus, freehand with photo reference (See obituary or watch progress video.)

Benedictine Ultima

Grand Silence, Just Sayin’

To be clear for a change, this one’s about my trying to make sense of my own monastic experience and poke fun at the currently popular expression, that’s what I’m talking about. That should suffice.
Grand Silence, Just Sayin'

The Letter of Paul to the Procrusteans

Greetings brothers and sisters. I’ll keep this relatively short in anticipation of my visit to your homeland. Please feel free to accommodate your image of me as you see fit, but once I am in your company, keep your hands off of me and my actual details and dimensions. Yours in ambiguity, not either/or, but both/and, for Pete’s Sake, Paul


N.B. I’m adding this additional information several days after the original posting date to shed some additional light on this rather esoteric post for the benefit of my brothers and sisters, ethnographers and evaluators, cartographers, food critics, and exegetes. Knowing something about temptation and Procrustean Solutions will help you better understand the post, but that will only get you so far. For the rest of the story, much more of it at least, it might be helpful to know that, before my monastic exclaustration, I was also a seminarian, and that I had a classmate from the Pittsburgh Diocese named Robert Barie. Bob was a gem of a person…and a hoot! Remember Norm Crosby and his malapropisms? Well, Bob suffered from the same inflection, as it were! One day it was his turn to read at mass, and so he heads up to the lectern. Now, because Bob was Bob, we’re sitting there, his classmates, already chuckling sotto voce. He gets to the microphone and without looking up, without even a pause he says, “A reading from the Letter of Paul to the Macadamians.” Naturally and somewhat explosively, our subdued chuckling rose up from the crypt and filled the chapel in a collective, sidesplitting belly laugh. After only completing his third year of theological studies, Bob died of cancer in 1988. May he forever rest in peace.

Morning Has Broken

Some viewers and followers may know or may have surmised that, before getting married, I spent a few years in a monastery, completed monastic and seminary formation, and became a solemnly professed  – no, not Solemn Vowels, ordained monk.

A funny thing happened on the way to mass one day. About 30 or 40 of us concelebrants were processing in and singing the opening hymn. Everyone properly intoned the first phrase of the hymn, Morning has broken, but someone behind me changed the next few words, as shown in the drawing, and sang it loudly enough for those of us in his sound shed to hear easily that he had referenced Fr. Frank, who at the time was the Director of Physical Plant, the only person on Earth capable of fixing a broken morning… for Christ’s Sake.

Morning has broken

For fun, have a listen to a traditional version of this hymn or better yet, check out this rendition by Cat Stevens a.k.a. Yusuf Islam.

Did you catch the spelling error on the first rendition of this drawing?