Recently I spent a week at a monastery. I didn’t interact a lot with the monks—it’s a cloistered community, and its members don’t often come to the guesthouse area where I stayed. I saw them at church seven times a day; otherwise I was mostly alone, either walking the grounds or in my room reading or praying. Reading, mostly.
Benedict instructed that a novice's street clothes should be kept. Every morning for the rest of his life, the monk confronted two habits.
I see the monastery sign and drive past. I know two monks there, and I've been grabbing at every possible lead. But I'm too ashamed to turn in.
As a graduate student, my father visited the Abbey of Gethsemani. His experiences there entered him in some permanent way.
The April 4 issue of the Century offers Ruth Burrows's witness to her life as a contemplative Carmelite; it also includes an homage to a community of students shaped by their experience with Trappist monks, which in turn shaped Faith Matters writer Stephanie Paulsell in her faith and thinking. Yet Carmelite, Benedictine, Trappist and other monastic communities find themselves in a precarious place these days, with many of them closed or closing. Must we lose these Catholic (and Protestant) communities before we realize that they are a profound presence to those of us out wandering in the world?