Archive for November, 2012

An afternoon at Gethsemani

A multitude of butterflies fluttered before my feet as I made my way toward the woods across Monks Road from the Abbey of Gethsemani.

Walker Hancock's sculpture of Jesus at Gethsemani.

Carrying a camera, a bottle of water and a book of Thomas Merton’s poems, I walked past the monastery and a gigantic sycamore, both standing tall and alabaster against a perfect blue September sky.

My intention was to hike to the end of the trail where the statues were, then return in time for Vespers.
After descending into the woods on paving stones, I entered a meadow and made my way around a large pond, where sunlight glimmered on the surface like a thousand sparkling diamonds.
Walking across a wooden bridge and into the thicket again, I followed the trail.
The first figure I saw was a small likeness of the Good Shepherd, holding a little lamb. The next was a sculpture of the Blessed Virgin.
On a tree nearby, there was a bas relief of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of God’s creatures and creation.
As  if on cue, a squirrel scurried ahead of me, carrying a morsel of food.
I walked on, and soon Francis greeted me again, this time as a large wooden carving beneath a canopy.
I recalled a bit of the prayer named for him:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love. …
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.”
Then I saw the Rosary House, a rude shack with its door ajar. Inside, visitors had left rosaries, pictures and paintings, including one of the Virgin of Guadalupe and another of a teddy bear. But mostly, they left notes. One asked me to pray that he find God’s purpose for his life.
Amen. (Let it be.)
The woods were quiet, not silent. They were alive with the sounds of birds, frogs and the wind in the leaves and branches.
Every quarter hour, the church bell rang out its deep chime.
Close to a modern statue of Mary praying, I came upon a woman who told me the statues that matter most — the ones the sojourners come to see — were only a little farther.
Presently, I found them. The ones I noticed first were of Jesus’ disciples, James, Peter and John, lying asleep, while a short distance away, in a clearing, bathed in sunlight, the Christ knelt in agony, his hands covering his face, as he prayed to his Father to let the cup pass, “yet not my will, but thine be done.”
As I sat looking at the poignant sculpture, I thought: He suffered this for me.
A plaque told the story of the Garden of Gethsemani art. American sculptor Walker Hancock created these images in memory of Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopalian seminary student who was martyred in Alabama on Aug. 20, 1965 during the civil rights movement. They were donated to the monastery by William Coolidge of Boston, Mass.
Because I’m not Catholic, I had felt like an interloper on this pilgrimage. But the words on the plaque reminded me that I belong:
“May we always remember that the church exists to lead men to Christ in many and varied ways, but it is always the same Christ.”
Verum est.

Buttermilk Days in Bardstown

I pulled into Nazareth

Was feeling about half-past dead.

— The Band

By Randy Patrick

The Kentucky Standard, August 30, 2012 at 6:35 pm

I wasn’t sure what kind of music I expected to hear when I rolled into the parking lot at the Sisters of Charity convent in Nazareth, Ky., on a sweltering August afternoon. Gospel, maybe. Or Gregorian chants. But I didn’t expect John Prine, I can tell you that.

Perfect Fit, a Lexington group, performed at the Buttermilk Days festival. Photo by Randy Patrick/The Kentucky Standard.

The title of the tune Cathy Lavender and Mike Meehan were playing escapes me now, but I know it wasn’t “Jesus, the Missing Years” or “Come Back to Us, Barbara Lewis Hare Krishna Beauregard.”

The music was a welcome surprise, and it made my steps a little lighter after a late night and early morning of work.

I was also surprised that I didn’t see any nuns — unless they were walking around the leafy grounds without their habits. After a month as a reporter in Kentucky’s Catholic holy land, the only place I’ve seen a nun dressed like a nun was at a John Birch Society/tea party lecture, and she may have been the only one there besides me who was not carrying a gun.

A former Capitol press corps colleague tells me his sister has been a Sister for years, and doesn’t even own a habit.

Just shows how little I know. But I’m learning.

The Sisters of Nazareth served some of the best barbecue at their last picnic. Photo by Randy Patrick/The Kentucky Standard.

Despite the heat and humidity, I enjoyed the picnic. Some winsome women who had done missionary work together for the Sisters of Charity in Belize kept tempting me with mouthwatering Memphis barbecue until I pigged out, buying two sandwiches.

I wandered around the beautiful buildings, listened to the music and took pictures of kids at the petting zoo and parents at the roulette wheels.

Before I left, one of the missionaries, Patsy O’ Toole, walked with me and told me about their fundraiser, their mission to Belize and the 200-year-old convent. I left there with a deeper appreciation of the Catholic faith and the women who give their lives to it.

A few hours later, I was watching a singer’s impersonation of Mick Jagger impersonating the Prince of Darkness.

Ladies and gentlemen, not The Rolling Stones.

“Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name,” the singer snarled.

I would have preferred: “May the good Lord shine a light on you.”

I might have known something sinister lurked at the top of the hill when I drove up the wooded trail to the J. Dan Talbott Amphitheatre just after dusk, and animals were running helter skelter. A huge groundhog (or was it a raccoon?) scurried for cover, and two whitetail deer crossed my path.

The concert had already started, but I found an empty parking space near the entrance and got inside without a ticket and without anyone asking questions.

I wasn’t going to pay $23 to see a tribute band when I had paid $16 to see the real Rolling Stones 30 years ago. My college friends and I thought the ticket prices were outrageous, but hey, it was the Stones. They were in their late 30s, and we figured it was probably our last opportunity to party with the World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band. This year they’re celebrating a half-century as a rock legend, and it’s rumored they’re recording in Paris. Their next tour may be sponsored by Cialis and Centrum Silver.

Speaking of musical legends, I left the Jumpin’ Jack Flash concert after a few minutes because I had to hustle over to the Buttermilk Days festival to listen to the legendary Lenny Williams.

That’s how he was being introduced when I was approaching the stage: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Legendary Lenny Williams.”

I recognized the soulful song from my boyhood days, when he fronted a group called Tower of Power: “Cause I could never make you unhappy. No, I couldn’t do that girl.”

But the words of the next song, “I Didn’t Know It Was Yo Momma,” made me wince: “Yo momma shook that big thang of hers all night.”


Lenny Williams

Sorry, but thinking about some guy who’s almost as old as Keith Richards gettin’ jiggy with a young pole dancer sort of creeps me out.

After a few minutes I left. I was starting to feel hemmed in by the crowd, and I was sweating and bone-tired after three days of covering events.

But it was a good kind of tired, and I had enjoyed myself. Buttermilk Days was one of the friendliest festivals I’ve ever attended. The wild game dinner and wine tasting, free breakfast, kids’ street dance and neighborhood block party were all fun. So was the picnic at the convent, the Stones cover band concert (except for that one song) and a children’s art exhibit at the Java Joint that I went to Friday afternoon.

If anyone tries to tell me there’s nothing to do in Bardstown on a weekend, all I can say is that they must not be looking.

November 2012
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