November 2004 Dear Friends of Tautra Mariakloster, We had hoped in this issue to tell you that the building of the new monastery had begun, but many rainy autumn days reflected our mood when the project had to be delayed once again. The bids that were made in July were nearly double our budget. We simply could not afford to move ahead at that point, and asked our architect to revise the plans so that we would at least be in range to discuss with contractors ways to reduce costs further. The whole complex is now almost 500 square meters smaller, giving a total of 1737 square meters (about 17,000 square feet). The church is smaller and will seat 75 instead of 120. Some of the gardens have been combined or eliminated. The roofs will be simplified, retaining vaulted roofs only over the cloister, refectory and scriptorium. The good news is that the architect has managed to reduce the area without damaging the essentials needed for our life. The bad news is that it will take 3-4 months to redo all the drawings, so there’s no way we’ll be able to start until 2005. God is certainly teaching us patience, and we move forward with the confidence that all will be well, at the right time. When building does begin, we plan to update our website every 3 weeks with news and photos. Check on progress at www.tautra.no One Saturday in October we had a soap seminar for members of the support group who tend our booth at the historical market during the annual St Olav’s festival. Those who sell soap are often asked questions by tourists, customers and even the judges of the market’s booths. This was the first time our support group members got to see the process of making soap, which is an emulsion of oils and a strong alkali, which lies behind the final product—from mixing organic coconut, palm, olive, jojoba and castor oils, adding lye water (the alkali, or base), grain milk, and essential oils at just the right temperature, to adding herbs and color to a portion of the batch, and swirling the two together in a unique pattern in the mold. Then the soap mold is swathed in blankets so it doesn’t cool too quickly, and left to become soap after two nights. When the mold is unwrapped, the block of soap has become hard and is ready to be cut into bars, which then must season and dry out for at least three weeks before use. A 22 kilo batch (about 48 pounds) usually yields 180 bars. S. Gilchrist says she feels like Harry Potter when she makes soap. It’s almost wizardry to cook up a bucket of soap and watch the chemical reaction. It’s magical because no one is ever sure exactly what the final soap will look like. Making soap is a mysterious and marvellous transformation: you take two opposites, oil and lye, which are so strong they are dangerous in
themselves, mix them together and let them react with each other, and you get in the end a completely new substance which is not harmful, and in fact useful. Maybe it’s the mixing in a close environment that does it—kind of like living in a close-knit Cistercian community on a small island. Conflicts are unavoidable, but perhaps we can learn from soap that interpersonal difficulties can lead to something new and useful, even beautiful. Visitors often remark that they notice two things about us: we have a real unity of vision, and we are all incredibly different personalities. We try to accept, respect and support one another, even when we disagree. Each of us has our caustic and our healthy side, like the ingredients that go into soap. We are grateful that God has created us so unlike, and called us together to be mixed mystically and transformed into something entirely new. M. Rosemary travelled to Rome to attend a workshop for superiors. While she was there, she was able to attend the beatification at Saint Peter’s Square on October 3 of a monk of our Order, Father Marie-Joseph Cassant. He was born at Casseneuil-sur-Lot, France, on March 6, 1878, and entered the Cistercian abbey of Sainte Marie de Désert on December 5, 1894. He made his solemn profession of vows in 1900 and was ordained a priest in 1902. He died June 17, 1903 and Rome decreed his heroic virtue in 1984. Our Abbot General Bernardo Olivera declares Joseph Cassant a spiritual master for our time. In Bernardo’s words, Joseph was a simple man who accepted himself as such, a disciple of Jesus who let himself be instructed, and a young monk who accepted direction. Joseph knew how to seek peace and pursue it, he was able to forget himself to serve others, and he managed to renounce his self-will in order to follow that of his Lord. Joseph is a lover who let himself be crucified, a thankful individual who let himself be transformed in thanksgiving (the Eucharist), and a priest of Christ who sacrificed himself on the altar. You can learn more about Bl. Marie-Joseph Cassant on our Order’s webpage: www.ocso.org Our chaplain Fr Anthony’s abbot, Dom Kevin Daly, was here for a short visit on his way to Rome. The almost constant rain didn’t stop us from taking him to see Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. He said that honestly he would love to take Fr Anthony back to Roscrea, but he sees we need him and he is happy here, so Dom Kevin is letting Fr Anthony stay on here for at least a year. We couldn’t be more delighted. There will be a feature article on Tautra Mariakloster in the February issue of St Anthony Messenger, published by the Franciscans. Look for us! Jostein Gaarder is a well-known author in Norway. Last year he published Appelsinpiken (The Orange Girl), the story of a boy whose father dies when he is 4. Now on his 15th birthday, the boy reads a letter his father wrote him just before he succumbed to the illness which took his
life. At the end of the letter, the father poses a very important question to his son. If you were given the choice, when the universe was created, whether to be born on earth—though you would not be told when or for how long your existence would be—would you agree, knowing that one day you would have to leave behind everything you hold dear? The rules are such that if you choose to live, you choose also to die. The book is advertised as a love story, and it is that—between the father and the son, and between the boy’s parents. But in this time as we journey toward Advent and Christmas, the love story could also be told of God. That very same important question was posed to Jesus—would he choose to be born on earth, knowing that that meant also accepting death? Jesus said yes. What would you choose?
We wish you all a blessed and grace-filled Advent and Christmas.
With love from your sisters on Tautra