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.