Yesterday, after they attended the new 3-D Sandra Bullock film, we met up with the Cistercians (like Cadfael) Brother Dunston and three novitiates at Kathy’s for afternoon tea. I enjoy these teas so much, surrounded by artists of every kind, some photographers, some working with frescos, some crafting icons…everything for sale at the Abby shop. When they are not working on their art or attending vespers, the “boys” teach at one of the most prestigious Catholic boys schools in the nation.
Kathy serves a great tea, having learned much from her mother a nutritionist, dietician and caterer. She offered her usual tea a mix of Oolong and something else, plus several herbal teas, including a red one from Africa. Assorted cakes…pumpkin, a Welsh pastry (cross of a scone and something else, cut out like a biscuit and with fruit, currents I think) and others. I had the pumpkin cake, which had chocolate drops in the middle. David ate a little of everything of course.
Our conversation involved the boys getting to know us and we getting to know them. Arriving with walking canes, David and I shared a few anecdotes from our glory days when we were still semi-athletic, playing basketball, tennis, and softball with organized teams from work, church, or AA in David’s case.
We shared our experiences at Shrinemont, near Orkney Springs VA, a Victorian Episcopalian retreat where David and I spent time with other church fellows, before we ceased attending any services, anywhere. So long ago, but each of us drifted away from organized religion in our own way. One of the ‘boys’ seemed a bit surprised when I mentioned that my youngest son had made his first communion at the local cathedral. This was years before I changed from Roman Catholic to Episcopalian.
All my life I have sought understanding of other people’s beliefs.
When I was in high school, my girlfriend Martha, a Presbyterian, would walk me halfway home from her house where I went after school most days. At the midpoint, Martha and I would sit on a curb and talk about religion, while losing track of time. I think I was the first Catholic she had ever known. Later Martha went on for a PhD in Religion at Texas. I also had conversations with my friend Lucy, whose parents may have been Quaker, although I don’t think Lucy felt she belonged to any particular religious group.
One winter day, I was in front of my parents house shoveling snow, and my friend Bill came along the street. He was home on break from UNC where he was majoring in religious studies. Bill and I stood in the snow and talked for what seemed hours about religion. Mostly, I recall frozen feet on my part.
And so it has been all my life, talking to people about religion, whether they are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim or some other faith. I matters not to me as I see religions, no matter how much we love them, as social constructs. Human attempts to understand the divine who loves us all.
At the end of the tea, after the boys had departed for Vespers at the Abby, David and Kathy and I sat talking. Kathy was trying to decide what to put into her Christmas cards, “Either a quote from Gandhi, or the Book of Common Prayer,” she said.
Twilight and Steeple (Photo credit: taberandrew)
Snow at Orkney Springs (Photo credit: taberandrew)