The cloak

Landscape after battle. The Baroque dining room of Pannonhalma Benedictine Abbey and High School in Western Hungary

“The last Syrian family left this morning. The volunteers brought them here last night from the highway, they had showered, eaten, slept here. It was a big family, with many children, but only some of them were theirs, the rest they adopted on the way. The father is journalist, the mother an English teacher. And they had not showered for thirty days. You see, they are not homeless, they are not accustomed to this. And for thirty days they had no place where they could take a shower. In the morning the Austrian volunteers came by minibus, they took them over the border.”

“The spiritual exercise of our students is just now taking place, this requires a lot from the supervising teachers in the evening. In the afternoon we went to hike in the mountains, now after the liturgy of the Hours I will hold a film analysis for them, and then I summarize the refugee situation.” “How do you summarize it?” “Well, you know, the media looks from an absolutely strange perspective at this situation, the pro-government media. And you see, our students are very intelligent and critical, and they are full of questions. And I clearly and unambiguously answer their questions.”

St. Martin sharing his cloak with the beggar. Fresco above the southern gate of Pannonhalma Abbey Church

“We usually invite a Hungarian prelate or politician to the yearly great spiritual exercise. Now we have invited Cardinal Péter Erdő and the President of the Republic. And at this time the students have one hour to ask of them. And our students are very good in asking. I would not like to be in the shoes of Mr. Cardinal and Mr. President.”

“St. Martin is the holy protector of our monastery. It was in his honor that King St. Stephen founded it around 1001. Every year, before the day of St. Martin, we have a week-long spiritual exercise in his spirit. That he halved his cloak, and he did not question whether the beggar fell into this situation by his own fault.  This time, we speak for a week about them, those living in need, about what Martin did, what Christ would do, and what we should do in such situations. We read, we watch films, we discuss them. The students set up a flea market, they cook, they sell everything, and at the end they give the money collected to the group about which we spoke. Because every year we speak about a different group: the disabled, the Gypsies, the blind, locals living in extreme poverty. And this year, the refugees.”