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Friday, March 22, 2013

Sinum Conservate... Omnia Conservate !

reprint in part
The House of St. Paul, Oikumene, Tilghman Island, MD

Spring is the time to think of working the soil and conservation. I always think of the Chesapeake Bay, because it is a paradigm to me of the "human cycle" of Good and Bad, of Paradise and East of Eden, of Sin and Repentance...
For what is it all but a continual flow in the spirit, an emptying out (kenosis) which creates hunger and thirst, and a filling up, which gives satiety and sleep of craving (pleroma): we turn to God and yearn for Eden, and once having come close, we allow ourselves to be deceived by the abundance, only to discover how quickly everything goes to heck once we let our guard down.

So it is with Ecology; so has the Chesapeake Bay been trashed and polluted, and turned into lands east of Eden where there was plenty of the old sweat of the brow available; yet so has the Chesapeake been cleaned up, over and over again, and made that wonderful spot where four divine rivers meet.

I have a high school friend who joined the Order of St. Paul Oikumene, which is actually an abbreviation of "St. Paul of the Oikumene and the Antioikumene, which literally means "St Paul of the Inhabited Lands and the Uninhabited Lands".  Their monastery is down on the Chesapeake on Tilghman Island on highway 33 west and south of St. Michael's on the Outer Shore of Maryland.

Their monastery is actually an aggregation of individual houses that had been built during the bubble by a developer who had declared bankruptcy. They had sat empty for a few years, but had been minimally maintained by Mungo Reeves, a County employee, who had scoured the neighborhoods about for money to keep the development from falling into ruin, and thereby destroying surrounding property values.

Then the Small Brothers came into the picture. ("Small Brothers" is a trans of "Fratres Pauli" which could mean both "brothers of Paul" or "small brothers" in Latin; it is short for Fratres Pauli Oikumenes kai Antoikumenes, a combination of Latin and Greek that is pretty uncommon for the Bishop of Rome and his pals.)

The order bought the development very cheaply and the structure that had been intended to function as a club house and community center was turned into a chapel and refectory and library, the rest of the units becoming domiciles for the members of the order.

The "Small Brothers" of St. Paul  in Clean Up The Bay Day in 2010 At Neavitt, MD.

Their function as an order is to maintain the ecological quality of the Chesapeake Bay along the Outer Shore and the Inner Shore of Maryland. The Small Brothers are the first ecological order of workers that I am aware of. Their goals are the maintenance of the Bay and the lower reaches of the rivers flowing thereto, which covers an enormous territory which is presently beyond the abilities of the twenty one brothers and their helpers among the laity, but eventually they intend to reach their goal.

When I visited last year, Brother Bob (my old friend, Robert Patterson III from high school) showed me around the grounds. He showed me things you don't expect at a monastery:  outboard motors and run-abouts, working scows, testing equipment... I was amazed.

The State contributes some money, but it is far less than it used to spend on clean up in the area the Brothers can effectively maintain.  In my life, I seem to remember three distinct eras of "The Chesapeake is dying! Let's clean it up!"  Flurry of money and activity, then everyone would forget. That's when the Small Brothers entered the picture. They have but one goal and no other distractions. Most of their monies come from appeals they make at churches around the Chesapeake, not only RC churches but churches of other denominations - and temples and mosques - that want to hear them preach the word of Good Husbandry of Nature.

I understood that the order would be establishing a womens' arm, Sorores Pauli. Where their place would be no one seemed to know as of last year. There were ten women interested, and that would be a welcome addition to their force. I don't know the status of that right this moment.

God bless the brothers and sisters of St. Paul of the Sown, the Settled, and the Empty Lands!

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