15 December 2023

Renovation: Kitchen & Chapel


St Albert the Great Priory in Irving was finished in 2002. It was built as a home for the friars who were serving the University of Dallas as profs and chaplains. 

The house has 13 rooms for friars and one guest room. The kitchen was designed to be a "warming kitchen" b/c the friars used the catering service used by Holy Trinity Seminary. 

The chapel (above) was designed by a commercial architect in a style very much in vogue in 2002 -- lots of natural light, no ornamentation, white/beige/tan, egalitarian arrangement of the furniture, etc. Serviceable but easily mistaken for a Quaker meeting room. 

In 2005, the priory was designated as the novitiate for the province. From 2005 to 2019, we had novice classes ranging from zero to four novices and a senior community of six or seven. 

Last year, we had five novices. All professed vows and moved on to the studium in St. Louis. This year we have seven novices! We are on track to have seven more next year. 

In early 2022, the friars decided to renovate the kitchen and the chapel. In the kitchen, we needed appliances that did more than warm up catered food. And in the chapel, we needed choir stalls for chanting the Offices, an altar of repose for the re-centered tabernacle, and tiled floors for acoustics. 

We received a generous grant to begin the renovations. But we woefully underestimated the cost of the work. What we thought was going to be a $160,000 job turned into a $320,000 job!  

We are still soliciting bids for the choir stalls. . .after reducing the number of stalls and going with less expensive wood. 

Work started on Nov. 1, 2023. We've been closed to the public since then, using our tiny library as a chapel. 

We need around $110,000 to finish the work and reopen to the public. 

You can help us out: RENOVATE

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Get on with it

2nd Week of Advent (W)

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great, Irving

I'm tired. I've been tired for years. Not physically tired. Not even mentally or spiritually tired. Just. . .ready to get on with it. Maybe the right word is “antsy” or “fidgety.” Jesus says his yoke is easy and his burden light. And I know this. I believe it. He's done the hard part. All I have to do is bear witness to his saving work by living a life that proclaims the Father's mercy to sinners. All the while confessing that I am the principal sinner in my one act play. This can be difficult or easy depending on whether or not I choose to bear witness from my own efforts or his. Bearing witness from my own efforts usually leaves me frustrated, confused, and feeling distinctly unfinished. Why? Because there's something dark and satisfying about holding a righteous grudge or making a mountain out of another's molehill. But doing so rubs against what I know to be the mercy I've been shown. And I'm left nursing an ulcerous ingratitude that quickly grows into resentment. What makes the upset worse is knowing that I chose to be burdened. I chose the more difficult way. All this comes together to trap me in knowing the way out AND choosing the heavier yoke.

Thanks be to God, yokes are movable. Knowing the Christ Child is coming and knowing that the Christ Child is also the Just Judge, seeing the end with the eyes of faith and a hope borne of trust, the heavier yoke falls away, and I can receive the strength [that God gives] to the fainting” and the vigor He gives to the weak. That's the only way mercy can find its way into the world. For a reason known only to God, He wills that the only creature needing His mercy should be the only means of showing mercy. Maybe that's why his yoke is easy. He gets the apparent absurdity of it all! If, like me, you're tired – or rather antsy – ready to get on with it, then get on with it. Set aside the questions, the objections, and the quibbles, and just be merciful. Be mercy. Accept the lighter yoke, the easier burden and allow His strength and vigor to flow through and out. The alternative is a lifetime of fainting, weakness, frustration, and bitterness. A lifetime of chosen dis-ease and injury. No farmer can pull his own plow. For mercy's sake, it's better to wear the yoke of Christ.

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Are you a stubborn mule?

St. Juan Diego

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great, Irving

I've never pulled a plow. But I've seen it done. Properly worn the yoke fits across the shoulders and extends back so that the animal's forward motion is pushed into the ground with blades tilling up the soil. The farmer wears his own version of the yoke, using it to stabilize and guide the plow. The yoke's burden is either heavy or light depending on the condition of the soil and how patient the farmer wants to be. No farmer in his right mind wants to increase the burden of his yoke. So he makes steady, even progress across his fields, making several shallower passes rather than one deep trough. This takes disciple and time. It takes rapt attention and patience. Jesus says that the burden of the Gospel is light. The work of plowing the Kingdom's fields is easy. Ask yourself: am I being a stubborn mule by adding unnecessary work to the work the Lord has given me to do? Am I making my burden heavier than the Lord himself demands? Our work in the fields of the Lord is to be restful. We can take this to mean that we're to laze about doing much of nothing. But that's not what he says. He says, I am meek and humble of heart...learn from me.” Here's what we learn: I don't do less work by wearing my own yoke instead of Christ's. His fields are no less rock-strewn and stumpy than mine. The same heat and humidity wear on me whether I'm yoked to the Gospel or the world. The difference btw wearing my own yoke and his is that his sits gently on my shoulders b/c he has already plowed the field. From all eternity, my work for/with/in Christ is done. All I have to do now is bear witness to the truth and beauty of the field. Why would I insist on starting over? Why would I plant rocks or stumps in perfectly tilled soil? Why would I presume to look at Christ's field and think that I could do a better job? But that is precisely what I do when I invent obstacles to my growth in holiness. When I multiply requirements for accessing the Father. When I judge the work of other farmers as insufficiently serious or faithful or refined. Worse yet, I can find myself longing to plow a rocky plot of clay and roots, thinking that my holiness depends entirely on how difficult my work promises to be. The Kingdom needs faithful farmers not self-flagellating heroes. The work is done, brothers. Now, we have work to do.

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How ought we to live?

2nd Sunday of Advent

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great, Irving

John the Baptist makes his Advent appearance, looking like some homeless guy under a Houston overpass and sounding like a street preacher at Mardi Gras. As a reputable salesman for the Good News, he lacks polish and – let's be frank – proper hygiene. Despite his appearance and fragrance, he possesses one supremely qualifying attribute: he recognized the Christ while both he and Jesus were still in their mothers' wombs. Before he was fully formed, he knew that Jesus was the Messiah. He knew this not b/c he was superhuman or angelic but b/c he was formed to be The Herald of Christ's Coming. His given purpose was to “make straight the paths of the Lord.” At the instant he encountered the subject of his purpose, he leapt in Elizabeth's womb, rejoicing that his Lord was near. From that moment until his unfortunate end at the whim of a stripper, John's life was singularly driven by the need to prepare God's people for the arrival of their Savior. He lived outside the world, just on the edge of the wilderness, preaching, baptizing, and wildly crying out that Christ Jesus had arrived. Finally, the long-awaited Messiah is here. How then ought we to live? What sort of persons ought we to be?

Advent is not Lent, but it's still an excellent time of the liturgical year to take stock of who we are and how we choose to live. You've probably heard it said that we are an Easter People. A tribe, a nation founded in the resurrection of Christ, living day-to-day in the joy of knowing that sin and death are dead and that we are free. True enough. But we can't ignore the fact that we are an Easter People living through an apparently endless Good Friday. The world we occupy is still mired in sin and death despite the divine offer of freedom. The world we occupy is still chained up in anger, bitterness, deceit, passionate excess, and the worship of Self. That this world tempts us with its temporary luxuries and easy indulgences is all too evident, especially when we invite it across our borders and give it refuge. Especially when we forget who we are and exchange our freedom for shiny new chains. Advent calls us out of our self-imposed bondage and demands that we fulfill our promise to be witnesses – like John – to the coming of the Christ. Advent admonishes us to “make straight the paths of the Lord.” We live in a Good Friday world. But we do so as an Easter People.

How? How do we hold fast to the resurrection in a world hell-bent on the daily crucifixion of Christ? Peter answers, “...since you await [the new heavens and a new earth], be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.” While we await the advent of the Lord, we work on being w/o spot or blemish. We wait in the freedom of Christ, receiving his good gifts, sharing those gifts, bearing witness to the mercy we've been given, and giving all the glory to God. Even as the world swirls the cosmic bowl, we stand out by standing up and following after the Baptist in crying out that Christ has come, is coming, and will come again. We stubbornly refuse to surrender to despair. Not b/c we're “betting on Jesus.” But b/c we know – we KNOW – in hope that the victory is always, already his and that his victory is ours by inheritance. Even as we lose again and again in and to the world, we win from all eternity. All we need do is endure in faith. This short time before his coming as the Christ Child is the time to prepare, to make ready. It's our time to get busy waiting. It's time to decide what sort of person you ought to be.    

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