Guest Columnists

A Mystical UFO?

by Father Robert Czok

This past summer provided the opportunity for an excursion to Cape Cod with priest companions, Fathers John Amman and Bob Blauvelt, and a couple of brief solo sojourns into the highlands of New England, specifically, the Berkshires in Massachusetts and Vermont.

The first segment of my travels with friends to and about Cape Cod provided some interesting moments, such as a boat ride in the region of the renowned Kennedy Compound, where President John F. Kennedy had spent a good deal of time during his summer getaways; a train ride into some of the hinterlands of Cape Cod; relaxing moments enjoying the local cuisine at some good restaurants and playing rummy in the home of friends of Father Blauvelt; and taking in summer theater, the classic musical, South Pacific.

And yes, we did make time for prayer — concelebrating Eucharist daily in the kitchen where we stayed and daily visits to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament at the perpetual adoration chapel of the local parish of the Most Blessed Trinity. So, in all, it was an upbeat experience which leaves memories of some rather happy moments together with fellow priests.

The opportunity to do a bit of solo travel led me to Lee, Mass., a favorite spot of mine mostly because of the local parish, St. Mary, Mother of the Church with its perpetual adoration chapel, an exquisitely intimate and peaceful place to commune with the Lord in His sacramental presence. Stockbridge is close by which is where the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy is located.

This year, my timing was a bit off and so I missed the last Sunday concert of the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood in its 75th anniversary year. Nevertheless, the beautiful weather and the peaceful atmosphere in Lee, Lennox and Stockbridge did much to compensate for that.

On Sept. 11, I was able to share in the memorial ceremonies in Washington and New York via TV, and being alone gave me much time for prayerful reflection.

Now the highlight of the summer excursions was enabled by a felicitous concurrence of factors. To get a wider view than my GPS could provide of the areas where I travelled, I purchased a copy of the atlas of maps of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. And having brought my laptop I discovered that I could make Internet connections via Wi-Fi provided by the place where I was staying.

These tools together enabled me to pinpoint a location I have long been trying to find again after a hiatus many years. All I could remember was a mountain in Vermont (or was it New Hampshire?) at the base of which was a Carthusian monastery. It stayed in my mind because of an extraordinary experience there which has never faded.

Putting together information from the Internet and the map I had purchased, I discovered that the Carthusians had their Charterhouse in Arlington, Vt., at the base of Mt. Equinox, only about 60 miles from where I was staying in Lee. At the base of Mt. Equinox, there is a road that leads up to the top of the mountain, a distance of a little over five miles. Traversing that road is a breathtaking and memorable experience in itself. But there was something more for me on that occasion, something I could never have expected and which I still find difficult to explain.

I often wanted to return there to affirm and reflect a bit more deeply on the unusual phenomenon I experienced so many years ago. But I simply could not recall its name or its exact location. So now, divine providence took a hand in it and provided the tools I needed to find it, and I was not going to miss the opportunity.

In that first visit, I had stopped about midway down the mountain where the entire complex of the Carthusian Charterhouse (monastery) could be seen down below in the valley. And looking out from that point there was an exquisite view of the horizon with a wide expanse of rolling mountains beyond the valley below. As I looked out, as I recall it now, I could see a small dark cloud formation in the sky coming out from the horizon. As it came closer, it grew in size until it formed a clearly outlined pitch black silhouette of a city floating directly above the monastery. I could not believe what I was seeing. I rubbed my eyes, but it was still there. I turned around and looked back, and it still did not go away.

Going back now, I found the exact spot where I was standing, just to reassure myself that this experience was real, not imagined. Standing on that spot again brought home to me that it was indeed a real experience. What it was and why I had it still remained questions to be answered. There was no tourist guide around to explain it. There was no one else around.

Before leaving this time, I discovered a Catholic gift shop down below the mountain, and there I purchased a CD produced by the Carthusian monks of that monastery. I thought that this would be a way, via the modern technology of a CD, that I could gain entry into the cloister — listening to their chanting the plainchant of Matins and Lauds, from the liturgy of the hours.

I placed the disk in my car’s player, and along the way back to New York, I was transported by the celestial sounds of their plainchant. At one point, near the close of Matins, they sang the concluding prayer in English, and I was struck by their words, as though they were being underscored by an unseen hand:

“God our Father, from living stones you build an eternal temple to your glory. May we, who dwell in the silence of your Word, continue to grow in the new and eternal Jerusalem. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

My mysterious experience was affirmed and explained. Could I not but share it?[hr] Father Czok, a retired priest of the Brooklyn Diocese, is the former pastor of St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus, Greenpoint.