By Maria E. Garcia
Editor Note: This is the final article in the four-part series Brother Martin: From Logan Heights to a Trappist Abbey
Brother Martin devoted his Wednesday morning to giving my companion José Goytia and me a tour of the grounds of the Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Oregon. This time he was dressed in his monk robes. He showed us the dining room with its beautiful wooden tables.
Wood furnishings in various parts of the abbey came from the endless and beautiful trees in the surrounding area. Brother Martin says the forest speaks to him and that he talks to Jesus in the forest.
During our tour of the church located at the abbey, he pointed out a candelabra that he made himself over sixty years ago. You could hear the pride in his voice as he explained that he put his Logan Heights welder skills to use to make it.
We walked in what I describe as a garden that included a small cemetery. Nineteen crosses line the area. Each cross represents a monk who has passed away. They were not buried in coffins but placed directly into the ground. As Brother Martin puts it, they are returned to the earth.
The monastic choir pews, also made of beautiful wood, line both sides of the nave, where monks can chant and pray in response.
This beautiful wood altar came from an abbey located in New Mexico. The painting of our Lady of Guadalupe was also brought from the old abbey. These are items Brother Martin points out with great pride.
We had a late lunch at Margarita’s, a Mexican restaurant in Carlton that Brother Martin is especially fond of. These days he only drinks virgin margaritas. The owner greeted us with, “Ya llegó el capitán.” Later, I would wonder if the greeting is because he’s a monk or because of his age.
We ended our visit in a conference room with two of his friends from the community. The first, a woman, is a bilingual teacher. The fact that the monks now recognize the value of speaking in another language tells you how acceptance is becoming a reality in this little community. The second, a Latino gentleman, had moved to Carlton from Orange County in 1972 when this community was less than accepting of Mexican Americans. This gentleman also spoke of the difficulty he had getting a simple haircut because of his ethnicity–there were “no appointments available”.
In many of our conversations, Brother Martin said that he lost his Mexican culture. He showed me a CD that has the song Chicano Park, sung by Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez. The CD included several songs in Spanish. He continues to ask if certain places are still there in Logan Heights or if I had seen so-and-so. He speaks frankly of the challenges his nieces and nephews face and sends his regards to the few old friends that are left.
I explain that we were headed back to Portland to view a John Kennedy exhibit at the Historical Society. He remembers that he was at the abbey when he heard the news about the assassination. Later, at the exhibit, I read a letter stating that a Catholic president would be directed by the Pope and thus he should not be elected. I wonder what the author’s thoughts were about the first Catholic to be elected president.
We said our goodbyes and I can honestly say that I was sad to depart. Brother Martin is no longer merely my pen pal but my true friend.
All photos by José Goytia
Part 3: After the War, the War Within