It’s rare for a monastery to get written up in a travel magazine, but The Trappist Monastery of the Holy Spirit has had a lovely write up in Travelgirl Magazine. The pictures are lovely. I wish I could go right now. Enjoy.
UPDATE: I have only just gotten to read the ruminations of the two retreatants profiled here. I was most taken with the agnostic man’s compelling remarks, and thought I’d highlight a bit of his experience and thoughts.
The bulletin board in the quiet dining room has a posting to sign up for a one-on-one talk with one of the monks, Father Francis Thomas. I sign up with the idea that I will tell Father Thomas that I like this monastery experience, but that I cannot, and will not, in matters of religion let myself agree to any dogmatic realm of religious doctrine. Catholic or otherwise. I think that while I am here I might as well meet with Father Thomas and speak to him with conviction about my pondering. And, I have never had any discussion with a monk.
Later: I spoke with Father Thomas for about an hour and 15 minutes. For reasons that I cannot express fully in these notes (it’s hard to pin down these feelings with mere words), my discussion with Father Thomas was the most extraordinary religious discussion I have ever had with anyone. Period! Father Thomas spoke in no dogmatic or doctrinal terms. He, with an open, clear and relaxed smile, suggested that I might try simply to experience the “mystery” of God, or whatever term he suggested I use. Father Thomas also recommended I read some Thomas Merton, the late Trappist monk who has been quite influential among his readers on the subject of contemplative
Post Script: After several weeks of reflecting on my monastery experience, I believe I now understand Father Thomas to mean that this mystery does not require anything from me: neither dogma nor doctrine, not effort nor rules. I should merely be receptive to experiencing this mystery. Against the backdrop of my fighting against and embarrassment about religion (or any other non-stoical response to life), for some reason Father Thomas’s mystical comment seemed to bring all of my many years of reading into focus. My enjoyment over the years of Faulkner, Walt Whitman, the Beat poets, James Joyce, certain music and the possibilities of Eastern religions was really a vicarious way of experiencing those other writers’ and musicians’ sense of the mystery And for the first time I now see the possibility of personally experiencing a more direct tuning-in to this mystery, not merely vicariously I am extremely excited about this idea of mystery. We will see what happens.
The Cosmic Dance
After I left the monastery, I did read with great interest Thomas Merton’s book, entitled New Seeds of Contemplation. [see Amazon sidebar, ;-)] This is an extraordinary book. Here is a compelling excerpt from the final page:
If we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear His call and follow Him in His mysterious, cosmic dance. We do not have to go very far to catch echoes of that game, and of that dancing. When we are alone on a starlit night; when by chance we see the migrating birds in autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat; when we see children in a moment when they are really children; when we know love in our own hearts; or when, like the Japanese poet Basho we hear an old frog land in a quiet pond with a solitary splash-at such times the awakening, the turning inside out of all values, the “newness,” the emptiness and the purity of vision that make themselves evident, provide a glimpse of the cosmic dance.