As many of you know, this past summer I moved across the river to Saint Norbert Abbey after nineteen wonderful years at Saint Joseph Priory on the Saint Norbert College campus. Many people have asked me how the move has been; I'm happy to say all is well. Don't get me wrong, there's much that I miss about life at Saint Joe's -- especially the great community life there. I miss the guys tremendously! But as I was making the move, I realized that -- honestly -- I've totally enjoyed living at Holy Spirit in Chicago and at the abbey during my earliest days as a Norbertine. Each house has been radically different, but all enjoyable, each in their own unique way.
An aspect of the abbey life that I seemed to have forgotten is how beautiful the abbey and its grounds really are. Not to sound snooty, I hope, but I feel as though I am living on a beautiful golf course! The abbey maintenance personnel work diligently to keep the place up -- inside and out. I am pleased that so many of our lay friends agree. Our spirit of radical hospitality welcomes people here wholeheartedly. The abbey is filled with people who attend and enhance our prayer life and spirituality center programming. Others simply enjoy the property as they walk or jog through.
I'm understanding that the community here is in the midst of purchasing a treadmill, which I am anticipating with great longing especiall as the daylight diminishes and cold weather heightens! Back at Saint Joe's I went for a run each and every day -- sometimes two-a-days (!) while getting my fix of Fox and Friends early in the morning. These half hour workouts were pretty timely given I could crank up the speed and the incline for more productive -- sometimes foolish -- workouts. Since July 1st, though, without a treadmill I've been taking my triathalon to the surrounding neighborhoods of DePere and Allouez: as I've said before, my triathalon starts out with a brisk jog, eventually morphs into a quick walk -- and then I find myself crawling back to the abbey doors. Fortunately no one has yet felt compelled to call 911. Each day the route changes -- each is pretty decent. But what they all have in common it the starting point and the finish life: SAINT NORBERT ABBEY. This has become the most fun part of the trek as I count all of the creatures I encounter along the way.
On one jog last week I confronted a family of eight deer on the north lawn. This week I was frightened to come upon a buck (no exaggerated deer camp stories here, I promise!) in the abbey cemetery. I often find myself walking around scores of ducks to not scare them away. And you can imagine how the rabbits have multiplied!! Abbot Gary claims to have confronted fox and wild turkeys. I've yet to encounter any of these folks, but I am amazed by how often we eat poultry here at the abbey..... just sayin'! There are all sorts of humans here on the property as well: walkers and joggers and I've even spotted an auxiliary bishop from afar.
The workout has taken me north and south of the abbey for the past two months. Tonight I ventured east, up and down the hill in the Resurrection Parish territory. Along the way, I am amazed by how many people either yell, "hello Father Jim" from their jog across the street or from the car or bike. I'm a bit embarrassed given I don't always know who these folks are and that I am moving at a snail's pace. I thought I was working out in disguise. But upon further review, I suspect black running shorts or wind pants coupled with Packer Coaches sideline jackets with a little Catholic bling dangling from my neck is a sure give away: Packer Chaplain -- or Packer Assistant Coach of "Really Special Teams!" Yesterday, one of my former college students parked his car on Sunset Circle and walked with me. As always, I was working on a homily at the time, so perhaps Drew will come up in tomorrow's delivery.
And the smells are just as great as the sights! I know that while I am out early tomorrow morning working on homilies for Sunday morning at Lambeau and Monday morning in Seattle, I will smell bacon frying from any number of homes. That's an even better smell than the steaks I smell being grilled in the early evening hours. But an hour ago, I detected two new smells -- the smell of leaves beginning to turn to gold and two different homes being heating with real wood fires. Nothing smells better on the first day of fall.
Tomorrow at 5:30AM the run continues, who knows what will bless my journey as I venture a new route... ... ... on a "Sunday Morning Sidewalk...."