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Saturday was hot, humid, the BBQ happening at a park in a covered pavilion near a scenic swamp. People were fishing on the bridge. Egrets were wading amongst cattails and loosestrife. Half the family, including the hostess, were at a rain-delayed championship baseball game for one of the grandsons, so there was utter chaos.

The monk was decked out in black, although not the traditional habit but a baseball cap with got monks? and a t-shirt advertising Belmont College, black Adidas shorts, black Adidas sneakers. Having decided to get to know him better, I barely said hello when he launched into a litany of Pepsi-fueled stories.

Recently he stopped at his parents, starving. He pleaded, "Give me all your extra food and I'll say prayers for you." Aside to us, "That's all monks do. You give us things and we pray." Mentioning the Brother Cadfael series, he lit up about Derek Jacobi in Shakespearean roles, grabbed another Pepsi then recommended the film, The Reluctant Saint.

While having dessert, he watched the true story about a levitating Franciscan friar. "I made the mistake of telling the other monks I'll be working on levitation. The Abbot overheard and frowned, 'Brother, there will be no flying monks at this Abbey'." From there, the monk told about teasing novitiates that all Belmont Abbey monks fly at night.

His father called for help starting the charcoal, having forgotten lighter fluid. I needed to sit and eat something while The Beach Boys sang Wish We All Could Be California Girls from the table's edge. Before leaving, I handed him my gift, copies of Saint Scholastica and What do you give a Benedictine monk for his birthday? although I felt like the one who received a present.


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