Friday, November 14, 2008

One of my former homes destroyed - updated

A spiritual home, to be precise.

Mount Calvary Retreat House in Santa Barbara was my first real "home" in the world of Episcopalian and Anglican communities. The brothers of the Order of the Holy Cross accepted me as a fellow Catholic Christian and did not treat me, as so many did, as some hybrid "Baptipalian." I always felt at home at Mount Calvary, serene in the ridgetop beauty and prayerful atmosphere.

(Episcopal News, Los Angeles) -- The raging Montecito wildfire has destroyed historic Mount Calvary Retreat House, staff and Santa Barbara County officials have confirmed.

The resident brothers, members of the Order of the Holy Cross, and staff are safe following evacuation, said Nancy Bullock, program director for Mount Calvary, speaking by phone from All Saints by-the-Sea Church in Montecito.

Bullock said that All Saints is currently working to determine if any parishioners have lost homes in the blaze, which has claimed more than 100 residences across 2,500 acres. Bullock's husband, Jeff, is rector of the parish.

Bishop J. Jon Bruno, who is in close telephone contact with clergy leaders in the Santa Barbara area, asks the prayers of the diocesan community for all those affected by the fire. The bishop and staff of the Diocese of Los Angeles have pledged their support in assisting the coordination of fire recovery efforts. Checks, payable to the Treasurer of the Diocese and earmarked "Montecito Fire Recovery" may be sent to the Bishop's Office, 840 Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90026.

Mount Calvary's prior, the Rev. Nicholas Radelmiller OHC, is leading the brothers and staff in assessing next steps of response to the fire damage.

Bullock said the brothers and staff at Mt. Calvary, were able to leave with some of the hilltop retreat house's valuable art treasures, as well as computer records, "but so much is lost."

I just read this and it will take a while to absorb it. People I love and have prayed for over decades are involved.

Nothing is permanent but sometimes it is hard to face that reality.

For all threatened and endangered by wildfires, for the Order of the Holy Cross, for those who will be in mourning, let us pray.

h/t to DioBytes, the online communications organ of the Episcopal Diocese of California (my canonical residence).

This is an aerial photo from the website of Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York (the mother house):

Collect for the feast of Father Founder, James Otis Sargent Huntington (November 25):
O loving God, by your grace your servant James Huntington gathered a community dedicated to love and discipline and devotion to the holy Cross of our Savior Jesus Christ: Send your blessing on all who proclaim Christ crucified, and move the hearts of many to look upon him and be saved; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

--the BB


Abinas C. N. Jagernauth said...

Sorry about your loss, Paul. I am happy that all the people of your "home" are safe.

Paul said...

Thanks, Abinas. Though it has been a significant place in my personal journey I find it hard to think of as MY loss. But it is a huge loss for the OHC and, I think, for spiritual seekers and everyday Anglicans in California.

We almost stopped there on our California road trip but wound up staying with friends in San Luis Obispo instead. I certainly do not regret the time with them, which was a great joy, but this means I have to hold my older memories. One of the oldest photos I have was of Fr Tom Schultz and my friend Bill at Mt Calvary in early dawn or late afternoon light. The place was full of wonderful religious art.

I can no longer rely on the external place but must now carry it more strongly in my heart. As is always the case with loss.

Jane R said...

Oh, no! They were just closing the Priory in Berkeley and the brothers from there had gone off to either Mt. Calvary or the NY place, West Park. The OHC monks' Priory was one of my regular places of worship during my last Berkeley years. I had even been considering becoming an Associate. What dreadful news. I am glad they are alive and safe.

Nora Gallagher of Things Seen and Unseen fame has a connection with Mt. Calvary too, through her congregation in Santa Barbara.

Ellie Finlay said...

This is so terrible. I've never been there in person but have seen pictures and, of course, I have a lot of respect for OHC.

Paul said...

It hasn't really sunk in yet, Ellie.

Mount Calvary was built as a mansion for some wealthy guy's wife - without consulting her sufficiently - and when she saw it she hated it. So the Order was able to snap it up - expensive but a bargain.

It was there that I said my first confession. There that I first preached at a high mass (Ascension Day). There that I learned how icons are written in the Russian manner. There that I escaped the turmoil of my life during immense transitions and financial scarcity and was at peace. I cannot think of it without thinking of the scent of incense in the wood of the old hallway lingering days after the last high mass. And the fireplace in the refectory with the motto "nec prope nec procul." And Sandy, the hopeful dog who never lost faith that a table scrap would come his way.

I will spare the brothers tales about them. A motley group indeed who will always have a very fond place in my heart.

Robert Whalley said...

I spent two week-long retreats there three and four years (I think shortly after the last time I saw you in Berkeley) and my association goes back to the 70s as well. I remember tea of the porch with Bishop Campbell and Father Doctor, so long ago, and you were there too. So many days filled with such messy and human holiness, and now we wait for whatever resurrection will come.

But it is still bloody sad!

Paul said...

Rob, thanks for reminding me of Father Doctor. The old Navajo rugs on the guest room walls came from his years of serving in Dine' Tah. I love the bust of Bishop Campbell and would lovingly pat its head, hoping he could forgive me from heaven for such familiarity. Those lovely miter-shaped tea cosies folks made for him.

When I was in West Park down by the shrine of Father Founder I saw so many familiar names in the columbarium and wept to recall those beautiful, eccentric, sometimes cranky, marvelously bound souls.

Knowing the brothers has kept me from romanticizing monasticism and delivered me from any fantasy of having a monastic vocation. I make a much better hermit.