“Shield me against my selfishness and my indifference to God and to my neighbor.”
~from the Novena to Saint Benedict
Early spring at the Weston Priory, a Benedictine monastery in Vermont, the monks garden is spare. You will note the bricks in the foreground with the message to “pray”. How fitting you might think.
In March, I and a group of Quaker men attended a retreat at the monastery. One of the group, my friend Ian, is a chimney sweep. When climbing to the top of chimneys in our region in Vermont and New Hampshire he often comes upon these bricks that read “pray”. I can imagine how Ian feels clinging to a ladder or roof for dear life, many, many feet from the ground. The bricks are always at the very top. A sure sign of the mason’s sense of humor.
Ian donated these antique bricks to the monks as a sign of friendship and good humor. They are not however what you think. They were not manufactured as a prompt to religiosity. They were made by the Pray Brick Company, Robert Ellsworth Pray proprietor, of Greenfield, Massachusetts from 1880 to 1920. Many buildings of that era in the region contain these bricks.
The monks of Saint Benedict do not necessarily need prompts to pray, they spend their lives doing it. Perhaps when they go to work in the garden they will remember Ian the Quaker chimneysweep and his friendship…