One of the odder aspects of the history of Christianity is some aspects of monasticism, for example, the complete withdrawal from the world coupled with the vow of silence. I was once sitting in the gift shop at Gethsemane abbey (my mother was inspecting their delicious bourbon fudge) near Bardstown Ky. and I was sitting next to one of the older Trappist monks who lived at the abbey. Suddenly he started speaking to me, which startled me because I had been told, apparently wrongly, that they took the vow of silence. That whole vow, if long term, made no sense to Protestant me, since it was a direct contradiction to the Great Commission. Short term vows like that for prayer did make sense. In any case, we ended up having a very nice conversation about Thomas Merton who was at that Abbey from 1941 to 1968. It is the oldest and only remaining Trappist Abbey still in business. If you don’t know the writings of Merton, I recommend his Seven Story Mountain. This particular monk had interesting reflections about Brother Thomas and his mystical reflections on Catholicism in light of eastern religions like Buddhism, and his dialogues with the Dali Lama.
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