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Terry Collett Oct 2019
l'uomo non può salvarsi
the Italian monk said
-man cannot
save himself-
we were in
the monastery garden
digging potatoes
for midday lunch,

seul Dieu peut
nous sauver
Dom Blaise uttered
-only God can save us-
and I listened to him
taking in his greying
tonsure and beard,

I opened the book
heavy and aged
smelling of time
and Christ on His cross
-Christi in crucem eius-
fingered and page worn
worn by fingers and eyes,

absque omni
condicione electionis
Calvin said
-unconditional election-
He does not elect us
because of our merits
but by His sovereign choice,

but Dom Joseph said
that is not Church teaching
we are saved by our freedom
to choose and accept
God's grace
and we sat by
the monastery beach
face to face.
Terry Collett Aug 2019
His head
no longer tonsured
but cropped close
like a zec
in a Stalinist prison,
he passed me in the cloister
in his loose fitting robes,
head down,
deep in thought
or prayer.

Another monk
who walked with a limp,
weeded the beds
by the cloister wall,
a black patch
over one eye
like a pirate
from Treasure Island
which I read as a boy.

I swept the refectory
in the mid morning work,
watching the sunlight
make patterns
on the wooden floor,
colours from
the coloured-glass windows.
The tall lean monk
planed the wood smooth
for the cross,
to mark the place
of the monk
who died in the week,
peaceful in his bed.

Who of these is holy,
I wouldn't know,
none looks into
their inner self or soul
and pleads as such
to themselves or others
if they dare;
holiness or saint-hood
is for God to declare.
Terry Collett Sep 2018
Confiteor Deo omnipotenti.
The old monk black robed
moved side to side down

the cloister a wrecked ship
in the high seas of his age
as the bell tolled for Lauds.

Et vobis fratres and come
she said bring me your soft
spoils bring me to my highest

heaven so I did. Without free
will there can be no sin or
virtue without free will you

are free of all responsibilities
Dom Thomas said to us. Quia
peccavi nimis the young monk

confessed. Belltower seen
above trees from the roadside
and heard further afield than that.

George and I pulling the bells
as we shown the day before.
Cogitatione verbo et opere

et omissione I said in my inner
darkness. Dom Charles twisted
the apple just so and said that

is how it is done.Mea culpa mea
culpa mea maxima culpa having
free will is to be culpable from the  

beginning and having free will is
necessary factor for any sinning.
Terry Collett Sep 2018
The bell rang for Matins.
The tall thin monk seemed
to glide past me to the church.

The cloister had captured and
held the cold morning. I gazed
into the cloister garth on my

right and saw the flower beds
spread like a carpet. I entered
the church and dipped my finger

in the stoup and made a sign
of the cross and took my place
in the choir stalls. Opposite

monks had gathered in the
5.30am dawn and stood or sat
turning pages of their books

of prayer. Beside and behind
other monks gathered about
me likewise ******* books

for Matins. The abbot knocked
on wood and the chanting
began. The morning sun shone

through high windows and laid
a splash of light on the flagstone
floor. I followed and chanted the

Latin words to mix and blend
with the others. I watched the
sunlight flicker on the floor. I

smelt the incense from Mass
the day before and each day
would come and go and be the

same like an echo down the wind.
I wondered would I stand with
saints or those who sinned.
Terry Collett Aug 2018
The taxi dropped me off
at the end of the drive.

I wanted to walk up
the avenue of trees
to the monastery
and leave the outer world
by a slow walk.

It was September
and the August
warmth remained
and birds flew overhead.

Half way up the drive,
I saw three black robed monks
walking towards me.

I knew them all
from my previous visits.

This time it was to stay
and take my place
amidst them all.

Words of welcome
and enquiries of my health
and state of mind
and humour to relax me
as we entered
the porter's lodge
of the abbey.

A sense
of nervousness
entered me.

The world and its works
left behind and the inner world
of this desert would
shape me and prepare me.

After the introduction
and cheer, a brother took me
to my room or cell
as it was called
and watched and talked
as I unpacked my things.

He studied the books
I unpacked: Story of a Soul,
Confessions of St Augustine,
one Bible and poems of Hopkins.

He left me and said
he would return later for me
for the Office of None;
two others came
so I wasn't alone.
Terry Collett Jul 2018
The monk stands
in the shadow
of the cloisters,
said Benedict,
his arms folded
beneath his black habit,
his features unsmiling,
his stare out at the garth
and the clock tower
over the way.

I watch him,
feeling the sun's warmth
where the shadows aren't;
the flowers in the flower beds
are in full bloom,
the afternoon air
throws birds into the sky
to set free and fly.

Other monks
gather in the garth
after the office of None;
Patrick wheels out the trolley
with tea, coffee and cake;
we stand and talk
in the brief recreational break;
white clouds drift by,
birds take wing above
in the afternoon sky.

One talks to me of his book
on the abbey, the history
from its origins in France
until exiled here.

There is the bell
for the end of the break
and on we go
to our occupations
in our rooms or church;
I attend the Latin class
with George and Gareth,
our novice master aids us
in our studies, we learn
the holy sounds
of the Latin phrase and chants.

I love the office of Compline:
the chanting in the half-dark,
the evening light
through high windows,
the utter separation
from the outer world
and our communion with God
in prayer and chant and song,
and our hymn to Sancta Maria,
and the final bell,
and the prayers on wing and air,
and I stand momentarily
silent there.
Terry Collett Jul 2017
Pax in te
the young monk said
during Mass
his hands
touched mine
sign of peace,

trees swayed
in the early morning breeze
by the South wall,

Il vento
è il respiro
di Dio
the Italian monk said
as we stood
gazing at the trees,

I cleaned the toilets
after Terce
bucket and mop
and cloths
the smell of disinfectant
in the air,

Dieu est amour
Dom Charles said
l'amour de Dieu
est aussi dans
sa création
we had arranged flowers
by the statue
de la mère de Dieu,

in some cases
silence is dangerous
St Ambrose said
Gareth related
as we sat
on the private beach
of the abbey,

the bells tolled for Vespers
George and I
pulled as we were shown
le campane sono
la voce di Dio,

incense in the church
after Mass
the sound of plainsong
still in the air in echoes,

der Glaube an Gott
ist ein Akt des Willens
the Austrian monk said
I looked at him
but was stumped
by what he said,

faith in God
is an act of will
Gareth said
as he thought best,

peace within
no act of will
just peace
and rest.
Terry Collett Jun 2017
Quid est amor?
the monk read on
but I looked
at his greying
tonsured head
how the sun
made it shine.

Dio e uomo
the Italian monk said
un po 'meno degli angeli
and what is man
that God should
care for him?
Gareth said
in his neat Italian.

on the orange
of the abbey
in the afternoon
and I helping
to pick apples
in the abbey orchard
doing as shown
by Dom Charles.

Dieu a tant
aimé le monde
the French monk
said to me
as I helped him
in the side chapel
to arrange things
for the Mass
qu'il a donné son fils.

La peine pour
le péché est en effet
nécessaire mais
ce ne devrait
pas être une
sans fin
Gareth said
quoting St Bernard.

She lay there
on her bed
spread like
an opening flower
and I she said
to plough her field.

The French monk
quoted Plato
les hommes sages
parlent parce qu'ils
ont quelque chose
à dire les fous parce
qu'ils doivent dire
quelque chose.

What is love?
she said
kissing me
all over
in her bed
the answer rattled
like a pea in a pod
around my head.
Terry Collett Jun 2017
The Italian monk
eyed me
in the refectory.

I watched him
I had no choice
he was opposite me.

He ate slow
his jaw moving
to a slow rhythm.

God centered
he said later
in the scullery
as we washed
the dishes
after lunch
that is what we are
God centered he said.

Sunlight filtered
through the coloured glass
of the refectory
on to the polished
wooden floor
I gazed at it
while the monk read
from some book
on Oliver Cromwell
in a mono-toned voice.

We sat in her lounge
she kissed me
suggestive things
in my ear
in her warm
**** voice
and we did.

George tolled the bell
for the office of Vespers
I lined up behind
the tall dark
tonsured monk
who smelt
of baked bread.

The afternoon light
was bright
and shone
through the branches
of the one tree
in the cloister garth.

Focus on God
the French monk
said to me
in French
translated for me
I said I would
or did
or some
such answer
in my poor French.

Whatever you do
do with all your heart
Dom Joseph said
quoting St Paul
as we sat
on the private beach
of the abbey
the other novices
tossed stones along
the incoming tide.

She shut her mutt
in the kitchen
where it whined
we went
to her bedroom
and had ***.

She not thinking
of her husband
coming home
from his job
but I thinking
of just that
imagining him
standing by
the bedroom door
with a displeased face.

The bell
for Compline rang
the monks stood
in the choir stalls
in their black robes.

I stood
in the semi dark
the Latin chant
of the office
the others
were professional
I was just a novice.
Terry Collett May 2017
One in nature
but three distinct persons
Dom Charles said
of the Trinity of God
I watched him
as he showed me
how to pluck apples
from the trees
in the abbey orchard,  

fiducia in Deum
He will always be
with you
Dom James said
I listened as he spoke
sunlight pierced
the coloured glass
of the high window,

Hugh spoke
of the chairs he made
for the guest's common room
carpenter by trade
but now a monk in training,

bell pulled in the cloister
by the tall thin monk
for Vespers
we lined up
on either side
of the cloisters
against the walls
orange bricks,

nam *** ego infirmi
essemus secundum
quod est tunc
fortis sum
said St Paul
when he was weak
then he was strong
or such I mused,

the Crucified
on the crucifix
on the wall above my bed
head to one side
arms stretched
hands pierced,  

un ami de tous
n'est pas un ami
pour personne
Gareth said
quoting Aristotle
as we walked
through woods
of the abbey
towards the shoreline,

I tolled the bell for Terce
George beside me
tolling his bell
novices at work
at least for awhile
his dark eyes
and that warm smile.
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