when i "founded" the order of st. chad,i knew very little about him. in truth, it was much more that st. chad "found" me. it had been his cross that led me to him: a greek cross with barred arms and a square at the center. if the jerusalem cross, with its little crosses in the four directions, suggests taking the gospel to the four corners of the world, it seemed to me that st. chad's cross, with its square, suggested living the gospel where one found oneself.
i had of course read bede's mention of chad (books iii, chapters 23, 24 & 28, and iv, chapters 2&3; chad's student trumhere was bede's tutor in scriptures). later i would read r. hyett warner's life and legends of saint chad, bishop of litchfield, (669-972) (wisbech: leach & son [,1871]), which has many more stories of chad at lastingham, where he followed his brother cedd as abbot. warner is concerned about the relation of the church in england to the roman church from almost the direct opposite perspective of the romanist bede. but at first there were but a few things that caught my attention from reading bede.
first, chad walked. i love walking, and find it convenient to use chad as an excuse. second, chad was humble. i'm far from humble and constantly find chad an encouraging example. third, chad lived in a time of considerable conflict about religius authority. i live in a similar time, and find chad an insightful guide.
the fascinating part has been how my casual adoption of st. chad has led to more and more discoveries about him and his times and myself and my times. the prayers of the saints are not to be scoffed at.
i have mentioned the snowy morning in march of 1991 when then bishop richard gundrey received my provisional vows to poverty, obedience, and stability, an act which would lead to the founding of a little group of seven spiritual pilgrims called the order of st. chad, of which i was given the exalted-sounding title of director general.
the idea behind the order, as i found as i learned more about the traditions of monasticism, was not at all unusual: that there should be some support and encouragement for someone leading a life searching for intimacy with the holy one, while living in "the world."
of that seven, most of us have continued in the sort of path related to, at least, what we would grandly call "the rule of st. chad." two men became benedictines; one woman founded an orphanage in rural new mexico. i have lost touch with one of the original members, who was last heard from headed for the wilds of arizona, although i suspect he continues his rule there. one young man became more and more involved in his american indian ancestry. i have ended up in a very comfortable "disert" in eureka springs.
and i have come to a place in my life when i want to "re-boot" the order of st. chad. the original rule, although copies are stored safely in an archbishop's file cabinet somewhere, was lost to me in a hurricane in south carolina. but from my experience living with those vows over the past years, i am ready to issue a revised set of vows and rules for the order.
i am struck by the different behaviours of peter,john, and mary magdalene at the tomb that morning early on the first day of the week.
mary seems to be that part of each of us and of the church that is seeking truly to see god. her seeking, her catechumenate, even if it be unconscious to us, prompts peter, our active body, and john, our soul which the holy one loves, to join the search. the soul may be urgent, outrunning the body, but unless the body also enters into the mystery, it is limited. baptism preceeds mystagogy; then the soul believes. then usually we go back to our home.
but sometimes that truly seeking part of us, that womb within us which is the ark for the spirit, lingers, takes a second, and sees the lord who calls us by name.
the celtic church at the council of whitby claimed to be the church of john, and some contemporary folks seeking to recover celtic traditions make the same claim. but let us not dismiss too quickly the role of peter's church. urged on by the holy desires of mary, peter also has seen the lord, and has preserved the possibility of that vision and methods for of achieving it and sharing it (think of the sacraments and the vatican library), even if peter has not always seen the vision clearly himself. for the salvation of the world, for the understanding of the vision, peter and john must remain friends. they "went away again," remember, "unto their own home." (john 20:10) and they would be together in the iconic healing of the "man lame from his mother's womb" in the third chapter of acts (a story worthy of very careful reading).
"but mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping; and as she wept, she stooped down into the sepulchre and seeth two angels in white." then, "she turneth herself back, and saw jesus." most of us, i suspect, would feel pretty good about ourselves if we saw two angels. but mary--the true contemplative--turns herself away because she wants to see jesus, not some messenger no matter how well attired.
now obviously this text is rich with much more meaning than this feeble discussion, but even this cursory reading is, i think, useful as an indication of the function and values of different parts of our persons and of the church, parts we often hold in competition (consider the foolish popular discussion of the assumedly gnostic gospel of mary) or to rank. all are necessary. without the desire to see the lord, which is one of the major themes of john's gospel, then the organized church, with st. peter's basilica and st. john lateran, would be no more than a religious disneyland. but that part of us affirms that there is more to life than the emptiness of the tomb. st. john lateran is outside the walls--a very important image, because to understand the mystery we must always go outisde the walls. then supported by the church active and meditative life, the seed of holy desire flowers in contemplation.
by the way, one of the aspects of st. chad's life that makes him so remarkable was the way he held these three aspects of his person together. but that is a tale for another night.