New Camaldoli Hermitage Relief Fund
A message from Prior Cyprian Consiglio:
I have often used the word ecosystem to describe New Camaldoli, which applies to both our community and our geography. As many of you will have no doubt heard by now, the central coast got walloped by an ‘atmospheric river’ of rain these past months, continuing into the present moment, which destroyed dozens of sections of Highway 1 and badly damaged our own entrance road. This storm is historic in terms of the damage it has caused and a true catastrophe for the people and businesses of Big Sur. The roads to our north and south could be shut down for months while they are rebuilt. Every business in the affected Big Sur coast will be closed or greatly cut back for the foreseeable future.
Our property is right in the middle of the most fragile part of the highway and so we are totally cut off at several points from all comings and goings. Ours was one of the first areas to be severely impacted by the storms. This is part of living in a beautiful and wild place like Big Sur, and what being “a place apart” entails. This ruggedness is also part of the special beauty that people love about the Hermitage, and why guests and retreatants are so grateful to be here.
The community here at the Hermitage, monks and staff, is “holding this space,” as we say around here—and in this case, holding it through the storms and rock slides––for the sake of everyone in our larger circle of friends, oblates, and fellow monastics near and far. It has also been an opportunity to reconnect with our neighbors and bond with new ones, especially those who were and continue to be stranded along with us.
Unfortunately, though, hospitality is our primary source of income, and we have not been able to receive guests for nearly two months, which is a huge financial blow to the Hermitage. We have now had to cancel all reservations for the month of March, and that may continue into April and May, depending on how fast repairs are done. So, like many others here on the coast, we’re in a position where we could use some support in getting through this season of storms.
We estimate that when the Hermitage is able to reopen we will have suffered a loss of $300,000 in income due to the closures caused by the heavy rains, severe flooding and mudslides. The cost is mounting every day we are not able to welcome guests. In addition to the lost income, the repairs and rebuilding needed for our entry road alone is estimated to be above $100,000 and could go as high as $250,000. And we must pursue these repairs as soon as possible, to allow resumption of vital fuel and food deliveries to the Hermitage. Thus you can understand the truly catastrophic nature of the damage cause by these storms.
Please consider making a gift at this time either through this Go Fund Me page, or directly to the Hermitage (click here ). Your tax deductible gift will help us sustain our daily needs until we are able to reopen our doors to our beloved oblates and friends, retreatants and visitors.
Throughout all of this, we are well, thanks be to God. And we continue to live our simple life of Prayer and Work in the heart of the Church. I send you our thanks and, as always, a promise of our prayers.
Fr. Cyprian and the Monks and Staff
New Camaldoli Hermitage
(This post can also be found on the New Camaldoli website here ).
Saturday March 18, 2017
Photo: Kyle Evans
We welcomed Br. Emmanuel’s body back last Friday and planted him like a seed next to the chapel he loved so much. We did not advertise and encourage anyone to come due to the conditions of the roads and capricious nature of the construction, but most of our staff and several of our neighbors came, even a handful of kids, Merritt and Alicia’s and their cousin, Katee’s granddaughter Samantha. (I got them to do dishes!) Br. Timothy and Kevin, from our housekeeping staff, both good southern boys, cooked up a picnic type feast for us: fried chicken, deviled eggs, beans, potato salad and cornbread. Fr. Daniel and Br. David came up from San Luis Obispo very early this morning and James came up from San Luis Rey, where he is in school, last night. Our other guest of honor was Fr. Shane, Emmanuel’s nephew who is a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, so we had a full choir.
We had moved back into choir in chapel starting this morning with Vigils of the Office of the Dead. After several weeks of liturgies in the chapter room, it was a little startling to hear our voices resonating through the rotunda again. We had to re-acclimate ourselves to the space, remember where to sit and when to bow!
That’s the good news. The more sobering news is that we are undergoing another “hard close” on the road as permanent restoration of the road at Paul’s Slide is scheduled to begin next week. Paul’s Slide is the one just to the south of us; actually it is mostly on our property and only the toe of it is on the highway, which means Caltrans will be working on the bottom of our property that abuts Highway 1. (We had to sign a right of entry.)
What we know so far is that during this construction, residents––and residents only––this time they have put up gates, so they are very serious––will have very limited acces, a half-hour window in the morning and the evening. Unfortunately there will be no resupply/deliveries; not even the school bus will be allowed to pass at any time. Work will be performed 24/7 as conditions allow. Nacimiento-Ferguson Road, over the mountain, might be open to the public within days.
Luckily, we got a delivery of fuel and food Friday too––and the trucks arrived right at the end of Emmanuel’s funeral! Perfect tribute, two diesel trucks roaring by the chapel. Benedict and Zacchaeus went into SLO Saturday to get all last minute supplies and now we are on lock down again for a few weeks and, of course, still unable to accept guests. We are certainly hoping to welcome some folks by Holy Week, but more will be revealed!
I am happy to report that we are still fine. This celebration of Emmanuel’s life was a real shot in the arm. I must say there was a lot of joy around this passing on, the same joy that he carried all the way to the end. We should all aim for that as we strive to be in union with God and take good care of each other.
As always, we are grateful for your love, prayers and amazing support.
I have been so caught up with other issues around here (including taking my turn cooking twice a week) that I have not been following the Go Fund Me page closely, just getting updates along the way. So I was pretty overwhelmed to learn we had reached well over the $200,000 mark already by this week’s end. We have made it a point these last few years to ask for money as rarely as possible and we always try to keep it in the realm of needing help to keep New Camaldoli going rather than for our personal needs. And this has been and is definitely a time when we need help to keep the Hermitage running!
We had our first experts come in and look at our entry road, and their first estimate was $500,000. We hope it will not come to that, but the damage is obviously as serious as if not more than we thought.
But there are all kinds of signs of hope. Today we heard that we locals (with ID) will have much more access in and out and even over the mountains on Nacimiento-Ferguson Road. (That is definitely NOT an invitation for anyone else to try it!) This means that we will be able to get deliveries (and get to the dentist). As a matter of fact we are expecting the propane truck today at any moment. Miraculously one phone line (out of four) started working yesterday. And one other little thing: this morning I noticed the sound of the fountain in the middle of the cloister garden. One of the staff had cleaned it out and turned it on. I didn’t realize how much I had missed that sound, and it seemed to me like the song of new birth coming to this weather beaten land, along with the scores of blooming flowers and the happily working bees.
One other side note that has been in the back of my mind: it was dear old Brother Emmanuel, who died early Monday morning, who for years kept our entry road paved and level with the weeds trimmed on his skip loader and backhoe. It’s almost as if the land itself was mourning the loss of his presence, he was so much a part of it. We are happy that we will be bringing his mortal remains home to plant into the ground next Friday.
Our Development Director Jill Gisselere, whose home was also affected by the storm, hasn’t been able to get here for weeks now but has been doing tremendous work from off-site. Once she and the rest of the staff are able to get back here we will send out official thank you notes to each and every one of you. But for now, from me, once again and always: thank you so much for helping us keep New Camaldoli Hermitage alive. We look forward to the day when we can welcome each and every one of you back.
Sometimes, when the sun hits just right, you can catch a glimpse of some one or some thing almost as God must see it. Light-filled. Luminescent. True nature revealed. The veil is momentarily lifted to reveal the actual essence of a thing; frozen light taking form. Love.
Then, almost as suddenly, the sun shifts and you lose that light. It is gone.
There is a large, solemn bell in the garden behind the chapel at our hermitage. By long standing tradition, it is only rung under two circumstances. One is to herald the arrival of a very few and sacred celebrations in the church year. The other is to announce the passing of a brother monk. Early this morning, at dawn, the bell cried out 89 times. Slow, methodical rings, as Fr. Isaiah pulled the steel handle once for each year of Br. Emmanuel’s long, blessed life. Those of us asleep were wakened by the sad tolls, knowing only too well what they proclaimed. We have heard them before. We knew they were coming. Yet we wept.
Br. Emmanuel had been bedridden for almost 2 weeks, having had a heart attack and fall that broke his hip. When the accident happened, a sick feeling crept into my stomach as I realized The Clock, which ticks for us all, was now in fast mode for Emmanuel. As I wrote in an earlier blog about Br. Emmanuel, I was able to help comfort him as he lie helpless on the floor, awaiting medical evacuation. But this post isn’t about helpless Br. Emmanuel. This post is about Unstoppable Br. Emmanuel.
Smiling often, Br. Emmanuel was gentle and faithful.
Emmanuel came to New Camaldoli Hermitage in 1965, already a monk but seeking a more contemplative life. He was one of my favorites, probably because he was a blue-collar, down to earth, hard working kind of fellow. Emmanuel was soft spoken and kind and enjoyed kissing his female friends on the cheek. He was my friend, although I had only been here 3 years and he 52. So not terribly close, but definitely respectful of each other. When he was younger, Br. Emmanuel was a real worker, taking care of the roads, plumbing, diesel generator and even bulldozers and tractors. In the time I knew him he was constantly buzzing around in his green golf cart, tools in the back, looking for something to tinker with. He had long ago been “retired” by his superiors, told to not drive cars or work on the generator for his own safety. Still, he managed to putt around and find work to keep his old, weathered hands busy. A lock had to finally be put on the generator shed to keep him out — too often he was found inside, wearing ear muffs against the noisy engine and checking the RPMs.
The first time I talked to Br. Emmanuel, it was right after I had started work at the Hermitage. It was lunch time, and as I ate next to him he asked me how long I’d been at the hermitage. I told him I was new. He smiled and mumbled a welcome (Br. Emmanuel mumbled a lot, but you got used to guessing what he was saying). For the next year, every time I would sit next to him, he would ask me how long I’d been at the hermitage. “4 months, brother”. “8 months, brother”. “I’ve been here a year, brother!”. He’d just smile and mumble “oh!”. Thinking back now, I’m sure he was just messing with me. If you read the first blog I mention him in (“The Good, The Bad and The Holy”), we had a go-round about where I was from, too. More of Emmanuel messing with me. Even so, I could tell he liked me.
Once, maybe 7 months ago, I got stung on the face by a bee. My reaction was strong, and my eye swelled shut and the entire side of my face swelled like a balloon. I came across Br. Emmanuel in his cart as I fumbled my way to my house after work. He looked at me and asked what had happened. Full of suffering and self-pity for my bad condition, I told him, and how hard it was to walk around and not bump into things with only one eye working. He smiled and pulled up his pant leg, showing me a massive scar on one thigh. Pointing to it, he said “got my heel cut off in a tractor when I was on the farm (he grew up on a farm in Kansas), and they had to sew it to this leg so the skin would grow back. I was in bed for 6 months with my foot sewed to my other leg!” He chuckled and drove off in his cart. I didn’t complain about little bee stings to him again.
Emmanuel with his beloved heavy equipment.
There are other legends about Br. Emmanuel. Like the time a few years ago when he fell 10 feet into our empty swimming pool. No one found out about it until a couple of days later, when he complained about being “sore”.
Or how he’d rather drive his little green cart in reverse to get where he was going, instead of going to the “trouble” of switching to forward gear and making a u-turn.
Or how he would drive bulldozers up and down the fire roads and paved driveway, fixing ruts and broken roads. And if a dozer had engine problems? Why, he’d fix that too.
Once, many years ago, Br. Emmanuel was working on a plumbing problem with a toilet in one of the rooms. He had a novitiate with him (a “beginner” monk). After working on the toilet for a while, he couldn’t get it to flush. “Wait a minute!”, he exclaimed to the stumped novitiate. Pulling out a small bottle of holy water, he sprinkled it into the toilet. It flushed no problem after that.
Br. Emmanuel talked in low, mumbled tones either from humility or just plain being old. But he was famous for always finding a way to announce, in his kind voice, that “they grow a lot of wheat in Kansas!” He was very proud of having grown up on a wheat farm, and spared no opportunity to tell you that Kansas produced more wheat than any other state and, in fact, even more than Russia.
He was also famous for his mumbled prayers in church. You really had to strain to hear him, but if you could your efforts were usually rewarded with his charming, caring prayers. Some examples of those prayers: “For the 3 people killed in an accident on Highway 1, that they might live through this”. Or: “A frozen branch fell on a man in New York — killed him. For his well-being, we pray”. Or: “For the protection of the turkeys on our property, that they might live out their full lives and fulfill God’s plan for them”.
In memory of you, Br. Emmanuel. Your cart roams on.
Br. Emmanuel was much closer to many others here than to me, but he still touched me. I still felt a friendship towards this gentle spirit. Today for some reason I did not cry upon hearing the bell toll. I didn’t cry until I was in our gym, pumping iron. It just hit me that I wasn’t going to see him putting around in his green golf cart any longer. I fell to my knees, among the iron weights, and sobbed. Somehow, I think Emmanuel would get a kick out of that. He’d show me his knarly leg scar and say “Didn’t cry”, and would drive off.
Br. Emmanuel, we shared 4x4 rides up to the pond, stories about Kansas and Santa Cruz, and advice on how best to eat peanut butter. You were a faithful servant to your brother monks and to your God. You will be missed.
New Camaldoli Hermitage
Fr. Cyprian, We have been following this unfolding drama and praying with and for you until this amazing chapter in your lives is closed. What an amazing withness to trusting in God's Providence. Always thinking and praying for you and your fellow monks, brothers, staff and family. Pam
Hi Maddie, I believe the fundraising is intended to relieve a very challenging finance situation at the Hermitage. The place has not been able to accept any visitors so it has lost $300K in income in the past few months. That means expenses are far outstripping income, which puts a severe strain on the solvency of the Hermitage (which is a non-profit religious organization). Without the road repaired the place cannot accept guests safely, which means further income loss which would further drain the financial resources of the community. That is why any support is welcome during this period of crushing financial difficulty. There are certainly other communities hit by bad weather both in California and elsewhere this winter, and all are deserving of prayer and support. (I don't work for the Hermitage btw, I'm just a supporter of their community and mission).
Meant to also add the following... from the Lorica of St. Patrick: I arise today through God's strength to pilot me, God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to see before me, God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me, God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me, God's host to secure me – against snares of devils, against temptations and vices, against inclinations of nature, against everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd... Christ, be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Christ. May your salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.
My prayers are with you! I myself cannot afford a donation at this time, but I will certainly pass the word at my parish, St. Patrick's in Dallas, TX. I hope that this will bring forth a little more help for you. I will also ask St. Benedict and our Blessed Mother to pray with us, that you are showered with enough resources to repair your road and have all the supplies and food that you need to sustain the brothers and the work that you all do. May God bless you, and send His angels to protect and keep you .
Continued prayers and blessings for all that you need!
Please leave address of Br. Emmanuel's location so we can visit him, please.
Greetings from Romeoville, Illinois. Was very sad to read about your current situation. I am spreading the word as best I can to people at St. Andrews in Romeoville and people in the "old neighborhood". I am hoping to get to Big Sur, California in November and was planning to visit your community. I have a sister that lives in San Diego and they have not been impacted by the rain as much as you have, but I worry about her and her family just the same. I know you are a survivor and will lead your community through this to be even stronger than ever! Sincerely, Sandy Prokopec Meinke
Dear Father Cyprian, I pray for the community's comfort and strength. I deeply believe God will see all of you through these devastating times. As I am poor as a church mouse I have nothing in financial means to give you. I worry about your food supply and I am praying that God will provide. Be strong and know that this too shall pass. Sending prayers and great respect. Your brother in love and service. Michael OM+