Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How to Make Friends in Just Three Days

By Ida Williams, Director of Marketing and Communications

How do you make new friends in just three days? 

1. Use the enticement of dogs.

2. Engage with the mystique of the Monks of New Skete. 

3. Indulge with monastic hospitality.

That is what happened this past weekend at New Skete’s The Art of Living with Your Dog Seminar.   Twenty-eight guests, dubbed the Storm Troopers,* left on Sunday afternoon sharing hugs, email addresses, and a few tears.  (Oh, wait.  The tears were mine.)

The first thing we all had in common is dogs.  The guests love dogs, the brothers love dogs, the staff and volunteers love dogs.  What were we talking about?  Oh, yeah, DOGS.  Photos of dogs were shown on smartphones, and dog stories were shared.   There were dogs in the classroom, dogs being trained in the room next to the classroom, dogs lying next to our feet while we ate lunch under cover of a tent, and eight puppies in the puppy kennel.  So the dogs are definitely the ice breakers when making these new friends.

Then there are these mysterious monks who live and care for these dogs.  They have written books about dogs, raised hundreds of dogs, and trained thousands of them.

What is their deep connection to creation, demonstrated in their knowledge of dogs and how they live their lives with them?  What is the spiritual connection they seem to have with their canine companions?  Will they really share this information, their secrets?  Yes!

Brother Marc started the weekend with a talk about the beginning of New Skete and the introduction of their first German Shepherd to the monastery.   Brother Luke divulged that before coming to New Skete he had no interaction with dogs and was, in fact, a little afraid of them.  Today he is the director of the breeding program.  He then went on to describe how the monks socialize puppies so that when they go to their new families, they have been exposed to different experiences and stimuli.  Not only did the attendees hear about socializing puppies, there was a demonstration with two puppies with very different personalities, and handouts to take home.  Brother Christopher tied the entire seminar together with these topics: “How to Live Intentionally with Your Dog and Have the Dog of Your Dreams” and “The Spiritual Dimension in the Human/Dog Relationship.” 

In a round-table discussion dealing with dog behaviors, guests shared their problems and solutions.   Another round-table topic was balancing work, family, and dog.  In this forum, the guests exchanged information on finding a good doggie day care, whether dog parks are a good option, and setting boundaries within your life in order to strike the balance you need to have a great companion.   The conversation turned to the heartache of losing our beloved canine friends.  This is one topic we all have experience in.

To host a seminar at the monastery, the brothers must open their home.  Meals are shared, recipes exchanged.  Laughter is heard and conversations had.  Tours are given and selfies made.  Relationships are formed and relationships renewed.  Hugs and thanks are given and hugs and thanks received.  One new friend wrote this on Facebook:

DEEPENING OUR RELATIONSHIPS - We encourage individuals, couples and families to attend the 3-day program on "The Art of Living with Your Dog" with the Monks of New Skete. Highlights include a deep dive on meaningful relationships, proven training methods by the Monks of New Skete that will help you, your family, and pets become AMAZING companions that you can be for each other.
Deb and I departed better people, a better couple, and better listeners for our family and our furry friends.
Big thanks to my wife Deb for leading the way and to the Monks (and staff) of New Skete for the great work that you do for both people and our furry friends.”

*Thursday night a storm caused widespread power outages.  The monastery, guesthouse, and surrounding area were without power for over twenty hours.   

Ascension: A Crowning Glory

A homily by Brother Marc
Isaiah 2:1-5; Acts 1:1-12; Luke 24:36-53

When I try to feel what the followers of Jesus must have felt at the death of Jesus, I am thrown back onto my old memories of dispiriting situations.
When my mother’s father was living with us after my grandmother died in December 1950, he never spoke to us about his service as a soldier fighting with the Austro-Hungarian armies. Now he was particularly isolated with those experiences, living in the United States, no longer in his own home, with his wife gone, away from buddies who spoke the same language and could understand how it was fighting in North Africa. He spent a lot of time sitting outdoors gazing over the large meadows and broad horizons where we lived. Of course we tried to understand and were sympathetic; we were especially intrigued to learn of the bullet wound in his shoulder, physical proof he had really been there. He let me have his only souvenir from World War I: his old enamel-coated water canteen, shaped like a large flask, with its canvas carrying pouch.
My grandfather died peacefully as we stood around him waiting and praying.
I can just picture the gospel situation of the disciples, long after the original dislocation of being called to follow Jesus, having traveled back and forth on country roads with him for three years, being confronted with the trauma of the arrest, trial, crucifixion, and burial—but now receiving the unimaginable shock of the resurrection. I can hear them begin to come back to life themselves, babbling about the future, wondering when Israel’s time will come, and asking endless questions about what this all meant, barely waiting to hear the answers. I wonder how much they and Jesus were able to reflect on the recent past. Did they think or feel, as they might have a few months earlier, that these present moments might be the greatest moment of their lives? Or were they much more sober, scared but excited, self-conscious with guilt, but wiser? Amazingly, they were still all together, though some had to continue as fishermen.
Jesus must have told them what had happened to him. He instructed them and answered their questions. They would not have the time-line for a messianic restoration. He showed them his vision of the future. He blessed them. The he reassured them and left them once again, but on much different terms this time.
These apostles needed to reach a deeper self-respect and healing. Those forty days from the Resurrection to the Ascension seem to have been like an extended and intense retreat for them. It served as a preparation, but not quite a training, for what lay ahead.
This was a pivotal time for learning who they were, what they were, where they stood in the grand scheme of things. It was also a crucial time for Jesus, to fully demonstrate to them and to Israel, to those who heard the gospel and to the world, his true and eternal stature in the eyes of God.
They were to be the shoots of a new world, time, creation, humanity, relationship with God. Most importantly, they were assured that this was all in fulfillment of the Mosaic Law, the prophets, and the psalms. The scriptures would be a witness for them and continue to give them an authentic way to understand and talk about the reality of Christ and the true meaning of messiah.
Jesus told them to stay, pray, and wait. They were not yet able to appear in public. He promised soon to send the Advocate, counselor, and consoler to empower them for a new mission. They would be given the confidence and the authority they needed.
This Ascension, he said, and my physically leaving you, is the crucial moment to set things aright. You will inherit the 12 judgment seats of Israel, you will tell all about me to every nation starting here, and bring the message of survival and salvation in the face of what is coming. I am going to take up my position in heaven, and today is the authentic revelation and confirmation of who I am in eternity. My work was completed on the cross, and today this will all be fulfilled before your very eyes and in your hearing. Tell everyone what you see.

For now, first of all wait and pray together; that is where you will continue to find me, until I return as I am now.