Mar 1, 2013

Pope to Marry Georg & Memories of the Past

Well, yesterday I said it was not the time for campy jokes about Benedict and Georg, but today is another day and I couldn't pass up this delightful quip from This Cultural Christian blog, especially since the photo used is the same one I used in the posting yesterday. Sychronicity or great minds think alike.

I should add that the Abbot of the Trappist monastery of Our Lady of New Clairvaux - which I joined for one summer as a postulant - left the Catholic Church to become an Anglican priest and eventually married. This was many years ago (1968) and was considered terribly shocking and scandalous at the time, like joining a sect of devil worshippers. He was the youngest abbot in the history of the order (35 when elected), handsome, athletic, dynamic, charismatic. Dom Eusebius Wagner. There is a file on record of his correspondence with Thomas Merton on the reform of the Trappist order. Apparently, he concluded that the order would not reform in time for his own peace of heart, so he transitioned to the Anglicans (or in the US episcopalians, not exactly the same thing, but close enough).  I wonder from time to time what has become of him. I once ran into him accidentally in the park next to Old St. Mary's Church in San Francisco's Chinatown - just after attending noon Mass on my lunch hour. 

The beautiful interior of Old St. Mary's where my father was accepted into the Catholic Faith. 

I was working then, at the age of 19,  for a stock broker's firm as a file clerk in the 'addressograph' department (machines that addressed envelopes).  I had just left the Trappists after a painful summer and was trying to orient myself before beginning college at the University of San Francisco the next fall. It was my custom to attend daily noon Mass at Old St. Mary's, because I could do just that and still have time to grab a quick sandwich before heading back to work.  Dom Eusebius hadn't given up hope in me and during this brief encounter in the park encouraged me to continue seeking God's will and possibly after a time of maturing to reapply to the Abbey. But I was already thinking of joining the Jesuits, which I would do eventually. Within a year of this meeting, he was gone - absconded with the monastery plane and the monastery cashbox, which irritated the Prior no end. Or such are the salacious details, which I'm repeating with a wince of embarrassment. is a great story in someways, worthy of a novel or short story. Charismatic abbot absconds with cashbox to marry divorced woman. 

The abbey church is among the most beautiful and inspiring I have ever seen, so simple and profound in its graceful architecture and its almost complete absence of decorative embellishments. These photos don't really do it justice. 

What memories these photos conjure up for me. My first profound encounters with the Mystical Christ, seemingly present and walking by my side, and my first immersions in nights of spiritual darkness, which so shocked my young and inexperienced adolescent self. (( I was only 18). Terribly painful memories and yet I was somehow spiritually reborn in the crux of this agonizing summer, a night of the spirit that I passed through and beyond, returning to the secular world shaken, unsettled, confused - and open to the Spirit as never before. I can only look back on this moment as a time of profound grace. And Dom Eusebius was a friend to me during these trials, so charismatic and handsome to boot! He already intuited my 'gay' nature long before I had accepted it myself, and as a dynamic and attractive heterosexual man, he offered me only the warmest and most unconditional acceptance. I remember him with gratitude and honor. Where is he now?

Acrylic painting of Dom Eusebius which appears to me to be a severely distorted portrait.  But something of his youthful masculinity does come across. He was a star quarterback in college before joining the Trappists, and since my father was also a star athlete in college (holding the track record for the 4:40 at the University of California for over 40 years), he made a hugely  positive impression on my dad. Since New Clairvaux commissioned this portrait in 2001, this means that all is forgiven and Dom Eusebius has been allowed to take his rightlful place in the history of the monastery.

Well, this has brought me a long way from Benedict and Georg, such is the power of the unconscious. Except to say that I could think of nothing more wonderful than for Benedict and George to join the Anglican church and get married :)) Though I was terribly shocked at the time by the news of Dom Eusebius' 'defection' from the order - and to marry a divorced woman as well (shock, horror) - eventually I came to see it as a prophetic act of a very forward looking and progressive Christian priest, who felt called to serve the Lord both as a priest and as a married man. Ahead of his times. And then we have Matthew Fox doing -sort of - the same, without to this day coming out of the closet as a gay man. But that's another story.

And so it is time to say: Amen. 


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M.McShea said...

Interesting story. Thanks for sharing. The Priest that baptized me was an Episcopalian at one point in his life before crossing the street literally as the nun told the story to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philly from the Episcopalian seminary across the road - no longer there.

wild hair said...

I sent the picture, Pope to Marry Georg, at the top of your post to a friend. His response was so rich, I thought I'd share it here.

"Just realized that if Pope becomes Anglican priest and marries man (soon to be lawful in UK), he can then become Catholic priest (like Apostate [associate pastor who is married and has children] at Assumption [local Roman Catholic Church], and then would be eligible to become cardinal again, and Pope - how subtle and Jesuit-like; extraordinarily clever - he really is a good theologian."

Jayden Cameron said...

Priceless anecdotes, and, Wild Hair, your friend's suggestion is delicious to contemplate! If only.....Penguins could fly.

richard wagner said...

i LOVE it!

when i was still in formation, the provincial of my province, the western provence of the USA, was elected superior general of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. he was fantastic. not long after his election, he left and got married. the Oblates decided to never again choose anyone the least bit charismatic. and from then on the leadership sucked...and not in a good way.

Richard Demma said...

Thanks, glad you liked it. And interesting story about Oblates of Mary . Watch out for those charismatic ones, they'll upturn the institution every time !

William D. Lindsey said...

I love this, Jayden. What a wonderful parable for the many right-wing Catholics who keep taunting progressive ones to leave the RC church and join the Episcopalians.

We'll now have impeccable right-wing credentials for doing just that, with His Emeritus Holiness and His husband leading the way! :-)

Richard Demma said...

His Holiness and his Husband-that alliterates, Bill, and sounds so right :)