Last week Jim and I took some days off and drove down to southern Indiana. We were going to stay at Saint Meinrad’s Monastery overnight, and then do a bit of touring around. What impulse led us to St. Meinrad’s is bit murky, even to myself. It was less a rational impulse than a listening to the “murmurs of the heart,” murmurs that I’ve learned to obey. We didn’t feel the need to be entertained or for recreation. We needed something more.
Most of the time we were on the road, barreling along it seemed with all of the rest of America at 75 mph, boxed in by huge trucks. I spent some of the time with my eyes tightly closed, clutching the arm rest, but Jim seemed completely at home
Immediately, we were enveloped in a great silence, a greater silence even than that of the Indiana countryside, which is not a particularly noisy place itself. The silence was only interrupted by the church bells, ringing five times a day. The bells call the monks to prayers. I had the feeling that in the headlong rush of our life we had–splat–hit a solid wall of peace and quietude.
A little thing: When we signed in at the Guest House, we were not asked for our credit card, and in that little thing I realized how used I was to be automatically distrusted.
After resting up, we went out to explore, though since it was about 96 degrees we didn’t stroll the extensive grounds . . .
There was a sense that many gardeners had created this garden, and, also, how healing a garden can be.
We turned a corner and ran into to a monk–he was in charge of the garden. I told him how much we enjoyed the garden, but didn’t try to detain him–he had a big box of something–what?!–under his arm and was obviously in the middle of something.
One last look.
Back in the coolness of the Guest House, we realized that there was no television! Oh, no! I was confronted with how dependent we are on our electronic amusements, but then, how unnecessary they are.
We left the next morning, with plenty to think about. I find myself thinking about the silence, the trust, and the monk’s oath of “stability.” When they take this oath, they vow to live in the monastery for the rest of their life, and to be buried there. Every day they see the graveyard where they will be buried, and it made me think of the American discomfort with death. I also smiled to think of the Abbey’s “Gift and Casket Store.”
We were on the road again, and soon stopped in New Harmony, Indiana. It was unbelievably hot–our car’s air conditioning was on the fritz, so it was like riding in a mobile convection oven.
The interior was striking. We were the only visitors in the entire center, and a guide led us up to a movie theater where we sat–the only ones in a theater made for 200 people–and watched a documentary about New Harmony. Then we stepped back out into the kiln-like heat and headed home.
Our souvenirs from St. Meinrad are of a different nature. The silence, the trust, and above all, the example of people who desire to spend their every waking moment with God, have refreshed us, and I feel the pathways of our lives have been subtly altered. It was like traveling to a foreign country–you come back having learned more about where you live, than where you went–if that makes any sense. We went to church this morning and felt grateful to be there.
Hope your week is a happy one. Namaste. Fran