Ingrid Rasmussen drafted this piece as an exercise in writing suspended sentences, while participating in the writing workshop Words that Sing II: Advanced Writing with Mary Nilsen. It contains Collegeville Institute insider language, but gives a glimpse of the summer writing workshop experience.
When the workshops stop working, when the evaluations are completed, when the gratitude notes to Lady Lilly are written, when Carla’s gracious announcements cease, when the snacks run out and the beer runs dry, when we leave St. John’s, the work of ministry begins again. Back in our respective realities, where we are the ones being evaluated, where pharmaceutical money has not yet found its proper home, where no one keeps our refrigerators stocked, where personal development takes a back seat to congregants’ and creation’s pressing needs, we may wish we had stayed longer.
After all, amid the grasslands, within Breuer’s cement kingdom, near to the cassocked brothers, under the tie-dyed beehive, above the retired reliquaries, somewhere between boiled eggs and green tea and chardonnay, under the weight of cumulative sentences, it is surprisingly easy to get lost in the Collegeville Institute’s charm. That Saint Benedict, with his rule, with his prayer, with his spiritual reading, with his manual labor, created a community so hospitable, curious, and aware, that those of us on the outside simply call it “magic.”
Magicians, before they pull rabbits out of hats, before they cut unsuspecting women in half, before they produce a bouquet of flowers from thin air, often use the words “hocus pocus,” signaling some sort of change. Whereas some say the term originates in Norse folklore, whereas others claim that it’s nothing more than a phrase intended to impress by sounding like Latin, most suggest its home is found in the liturgy of the Eucharist, which contains the phrase “Hoc est corpus meum,” meaning “This is my body.” If we believe linguists, if we trust church historians, even if we listen to wily entertainers, magic is connected to the work of the church, to the sensuous and miraculous feast we call Holy Communion.
Despite the architecture’s allure, despite the LaCroix bounty, despite the plentiful Dove chocolates, despite the Fun Van’s bench seats, maybe the power of Collegeville resides in something else—something that actually goes with us when we return to our daily work, something that we don’t hold but that holds us, something that has everything to do with the real and immediate presence of Christ’s body, given for the sake of the world.