Mary Frances Coady

Recent Articles

  • ‘Un Petit Saint’

    In 1946, two years before Thomas Merton’s book The Seven Storey Mountain brought Trappist monasteries into popular focus, a twenty-one-year-old man set out on a ship from France to try his vocation in one of them.  His destination was the Abbey of Notre-Dame du Lac in Oka, Quebec.  His name was Georges Vanier, named after […]
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  • Desert Hospitality

    I’m sitting on the hotel step with today’s scripture readings in front of me when Salah, the Bedouin guide, arrives.  It’s Sunday, and there are no churches in the town of Wadi Mousa, in southern Jordan.   These readings are the nearest I’ll get to Mass today.  Salah is taking me on a day’s tour of […]
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  • Beyond The Seven Storey Mountain: Remembering Thomas Merton

      At the beginning of his autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton introduces himself thus:  “On the last day of January 1915, under the sign of the Water Bearer, in a year of a great war, and down in the shadow of some French mountains on the border of Spain, I came into the […]
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  • Abbaye Val Notre Dame

    At six o’clock on a summer morning, the only sound outside the Trappist Abbaye Val Notre Dame is the croaking of two bull frogs in the nearby pond.  The abbey, located deep inside the foothills of the Laurentian Mountains in southern Quebec, is so remote that when the monks began building, they had to forge […]
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  • Evelyn Waugh in America

    When the English novelist Evelyn Waugh visited the United States in the late 1940s, a young journalist asked him what impressed him most in America.  His answer: the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky.  Finding that his interviewer, whom he identified only as “the wretched girl”, knew nothing about the Trappists and little about anything […]
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  • “The School of L’Arche”: Pauline Vanier’s Final Vocation

    In May, 1964, Thérèse Vanier, a medical doctor in London, wrote to her parents that her brother, Jean, was “very busy over some new project which he may have mentioned to you—he only briefly said something to me about it—a plan to set up some sort of house or houses near Compiègne for des débiles […]
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  • The Upstairs Room

    In late October, 1866, a young student and poet named Gerard Manley Hopkins boarded a train in Oxford and took the 60-mile journey north to the industrial city of Birmingham. There, he was received into the Roman Catholic Church by John Henry Newman. By that time, Newman had a saintly reputation. Once a renowned Anglican […]
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  • Monasteries of Meteora, Greece

    In the chapel of St. Stephen’s Monastery, set high among the giant outcroppings of rock that stand before the Pindos Mountains in central Greece, the nuns’ chanting of Vespers goes on and on as evening turns into night.  Their voices, singing in a minor key of mournful solemnity, become a drone, the unfamiliar sounds an […]
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  • Freya von Moltke: Tribute to a Resister

    One day in early January 1945, Freya von Moltke walked through bomb-gutted Berlin to visit Roland Freisler, the judge-presider of the show-trials that had been set up after the July,1944 failed attempt on Hitler’s life. At the trials, the defendants had to stand before Freisler, some forced to hold up their pants because suspenders and […]
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  • St. John and the Island of Patmos

    From a distance, the island of Patmos looks like lumps of clay. As the ferry draws nearer, turning into the deep bay toward the Port of Skala, the lumps dissolve into a volcanic, mountainous mass. Here and there clusters of square-topped houses, gleaming in whitewashed starkness, cling together. At the top of the second-highest mountain […]
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