I was struck by the beauty and peace of the place. For thirteen centuries monks had prayed on this island. I had never felt so close to God as when I walked across the cloister from where there was a commanding view of the ocean below.
I bought a medal and learned the Prayer to Saint Michael. I began to pray it occasionally. When college started I would pray it almost daily before going to bed.
During my sophomore year in college the Lord made it evident to me that I needed to change course in my life. I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life, even though I made it with great peace. I applied to seminary. Without planning it, it was on September 29th, 2001, the Feast of the Archangels, that I drove home and told my family I wanted to go to seminary. That I felt called to be a priest. I am convinced, by this and many other happenings, that Saint Michael played a crucial role in my answering God’s call.
Years of seminary studies followed after and on April 2006 I had the opportunity to return to Mont Saint Michel. This time not as a visitor, but as a pilgrim. Not as a tourist, but as a retreatant.
I arrived on a cool afternoon to the train station of Pontorson 5.5 miles from the Abbey. Outside the deserted station I found the bus schedule. There were only two daily buses to the Abbey and I had just missed the first one. The next one was at night. I decided to walk.
As I walked along the road from Pontporson towards the sea I spotted the Abbey a long distance away. I slowly but surely approached it. The more I walked the more I identified with the thousands of pilgrims who had walked this very same path throughout the centuries towards the beautiful Abbey. After about two hours I crossed onto the village and began my ascent through the village’s one street towards the Abbey. I quickly found myself standing before imposing wooden doors. I had reached my destination and the walk had been well worth it. I rang the doorbell. I knocked on the door. I sat down and waited.
After eating a simple meal in silence, I was invited into the Abbey church for night prayer. I sat with the monks and sisters in an exquisite medieval church without any tourists or distractions. They began to chant and I thought I had entered paradise. I had never heard such beautiful voices. That was my first encounter with the Fraternite Monastique de Jerusalem.
I spent the next three days with the monks, living in a small house in the village. I was given my very own key into the Abbey. In the evenings after the tourists left, I would walk around the cloister praying a rosary. I was by myself, but certainly not alone. I joined the monks for prayers and Mass. I had the opportunity to walk on the ocean floor during low tide, making sure I didn’t go too far out since the tide rose quickly.
The experience was so powerful that I am afraid of repeating it. I am afraid I would be disappointed if I returned and it would not be quite the same. On Sunday after morning Mass and lunch (where we were allowed to speak) I continued my journey. A journey that continues and I always reflect on in a special way every September 29th.