Monday, August 31, 2009

St. Bonaventure University

Taking John back to the airport in Buffalo, we stopped at St. Bonaventure University, in Olean NY. I knew that Bob Lax, who had grown up in Olean, had left most of his manuscripts to the University. I wanted to see them - or at least one.

The campus itself was unique. John took some “door” photos for his collection. It felt very “Catholic” to me, in a good sort of way.

I like the St. Joseph Oratory, a little round chapel, right in the middle of campus. Inside there was a statue of St. Joseph, with bench and cushions going around the wall, like a little meditation room. I have special place in my heart for St. Joseph, so I sat for a while.

This was a Sunday, and between school sessions, so I knew that I would be lucky if I found anyone around. The art building was open though - I wish I had had more time to browse that place, boy did it look interesting - and I was directed to the library. A young woman was waiting there, and said that it was open from 12:30 to 2:30 on Sunday. So I waited.

Unfortunately, the student who was in charge of the library didn’t know anything about Lax, and the best she could do was show me the website the school maintained for Lax. I know those papers are in there, I think that they should have a public room exhibiting photos and Lax’s manuscripts.

They did have a photo of Merton in the lobby, saying that Lax had introduced him to St. Bonaventure’s, and there was a brochure for a walking tour that would take you to the places that Merton mentions in his journals, like the statue of St. Therese of Lisieux where he heard the call to Gethsemane.

Merton gets all the fame, but Lax was very much a part of the inspiration, and an internationally acclaimed poet in his own right. St. Bonaventure’s has missed the boat, if you ask me.


  1. Beth,

    I spent a glorious summer (1962) on the blessed campus in Olean. Was heartbroken when I couldn't return in 1963, as I was sent to teach in Puerto Rico. The campus itself was for me an oasis of peace and full of the spirit. The group from around the country doing graduate work were people I came to love. One Carmelite group led Hootenannies every couple of weeks. Their leader is now the provincial of the order in Washington. I still have his 1965 ordination picture somewhere. I found him on the cover of Time magazine while i was stil in P.R. , walking in the front row of the civil rights march with M.L.King and others. We corresponded then, and later when he was working in community organizing in Chicago with Saul Alinsky. Jack Welch, O.Carm., will always be in my memory.

    Carol Ann Breyer's husband, Lee, was also in that order for many years and knew Jack well. He has good things to say about him, tho he was not part of the St. Bona's group.

    Again, welcome back to our part of the world.

    P.S. When I was there, the library had a display of a Merton MS, all fine handwriting, tiny, with few crossouts or corrections. I believe it was from the time when he lived there in the dorms.

  2. You COMMIES!!!! :-)

    Glad to know that story, Maureen. Assures me of how what good company I keep!