And it is a sad day for me (despite it also being the 8th anniversary of my ordination to the Priesthood today). I have been visiting the abbey since I was 14 years old and would have been oblate there for 20 years on Aug. 13. When I told my friend and fellow Blue Cloud Oblate, Pastor Mark Strobel about the closing, he said (after the initial shock wore off): “It’s like losing a parent.”
And it is. It is very much like the death of a loved one. In my own estimation, Blue Cloud always was and would always be. But, alas, like all things of this earth, nothing always was and nothing will always be. Except, of course, our assurance of what awaits us. After all, “here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13.14)
When I visited Blue Cloud last week, it was the first time I had visited since my father died in September 2010. Memories of flooded back to me of that first time I came to Blue Cloud with my parents and how even they, good Lutherans they were, loved this Catholic monastery in the rolling hills of eastern South Dakota. I remember like it was yesterday when I saw the bell tower rising over the trees as we made our way past Marvin toward the monastery.
As I walked around the monastery and grounds, memories of welled up of the times I came here, often just for some kind of spiritual centering, but also often in very bad times, when I seemed to have no where else to go.
And as I walked through the cemetery, I paused at the graves of those several monks I knew well who lie there, such as Brother Gene, who always had fresh roses in my room every time I came (and who was, in his own right, a very accomplished poet), or Father Stan, who always greeted me with a hearty smile and a pat on the back or Father Wilfred, who signed by Oblation certificate in 1992 (the Abbey being in between abbots at the time).
For me, as someone who has cherished and held dear my vocation as an Oblate, I will now look for another monastic community with which to associate. This is no easy task. Some fit. Others most definitely do not. Only with much prayer and with the guiding of the Spirit will the right community be found.
But I know that wherever I go, I go with those Benedictine ideals I learned at Blue Cloud ingrained deeply in my soul. And it is for that grace that I am truly grateful.