First of all I want to show you a picture of the Hale Theatre we went to on Wednesday evening.
The venue is built surrounding a central performing area and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. We were in the first row, and the actors were right in front of us, and at times even behind us during the performance. We had a great time watching The Hit, and are hoping to pick up tickets for an upcoming presentation before we leave for home.
As we’ve had a fairly busy past week or so, we made arrangements for today’s excursion to leave a bit later in the morning and we met up with fellow British Columbians Keith and Linda for a trip to St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery a few miles south of Florence Arizona. The directions that both Keith and I read stated that the Monastery was a few miles south of Florence on St Joseph’s Way. The map we saw stated that this road connected directly to the highway, so we took off expecting to see the turn off shortly after passing through Florence. After about 20 minutes of driving we started to feel that somebody was playing a trick on us, as we never saw St. Joseph’s or any sign pointing to the monastery. Keith had his Garmin GPS along, so we fired it up, and it immediately told us that we were 21 miles past the monastery, and that we needed to turn around and head for Paisano Road. Oh well, at least we got to see some more of the greened up desert terrain. Once we reached Paisano we noticed there was no sign indicating the monastery was anywhere near, but we could see some structures off in the distance, so we figured we were on the right route. It turns out that St Joseph Way is at the END of Paisano Road and not anywhere near the highway, so I think that both Keith and I need to attend a map reading class.
The grounds of the monastery are well manicured and lush as they have 3 artesian wells providing adequate water for both the residents and the olives and citrus they produce and sell at the on-site bookstore. The history of the Monastery is quite recent as 6 monks arrived in the desert in 1995 to establish the monastery. In the intervening 18 years they’ve built about 9 chapels, various residences and a number of crosses and fountains in their compound. The various chapels are all different sizes and designs, and each one is dedicated to a different saint associated with the church. The reason they have so many chapels is that they celebrate various mass in specific chapels on days dedicated to the particular saint the chapel is dedicated to.
There are a few rules associated with visiting the site that made choosing what to wear today rather difficult. No pictures were allowed of the resident monks. There are no open toed shoes allowed. Men must be in long pants and long sleeves. Women MUST wear a skirt reaching to their ankles, have long sleeves, and need to have their heads covered with a scarf. As very few tourists to Arizona will bring along all the clothing necessary to fulfill each and every criteria, they do provide items of clothing for you to borrow during your visit. Really, the guys got off easy, and as usual, I’m glad I wasn’t born a female.
The very nice skirt Sylvia and Linda were required to wear were worn over jeans. When we left the monastery Keith wondered if Sylvia might walk off with her new outfit, forgetting that she had it on. I assured him that she would not have any problem remembering to take the gear off. But…don’t you think they look cute?
As I said, the exterior of each chapel looked quite different, but the layout of the interior of each one was quite similar. There was lots of beautiful brass and elaborately carved woodwork, the floors were either marble or slate, and there was usually a round skylight just before the altar. There are no chairs in the chapels, as they are expected to stand during the services, but that is not a hard and fast rule, as the little cubicles where they stand do have small fold down seats if they tire during the liturgy.
This particular ‘chair’ is reserved for the Bishop and was the only piece in any chapel that we were asked not to touch. With the exception of a couple of electric lights over pedestals where their readings are performed there is no electric lighting anywhere. The various brass chandeliers are lit by candles which are only used on special days. They do have massive heat pump and air-conditioning systems though.
There were lots of fountains and crosses around the area, and while I’m certain that the lifestyle of a monk is not for me, it appears that the locals are quite happy in their work and service. Everyone we spoke to was helpful, polite and looked the part of a gentle soul.
When we got back to the park we took off for our regular walk and ended up at René and Jeanette’s site where we met their daughter Ginette along with her husband Trevor and their 10 month old son Easton, who’s the apple of Renés eye. We had a great time, and were able to tell them some of the can’t miss things to see in the area. I think we even managed to convince Jeanette to come out for the pickup softball game on Saturday morning. That should be fun. And she also seemed interested in our monastery adventure.