A Visit to Saint Meinrad’s Monastery

DSCF6116Last 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.

DSCF6052Most 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

DSCF6108We finally made it to St. Meinrad.

DSCF6058Immediately, 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.

DSCF6059We were amazed at the size of the Abbey, which was founded in 1854.

DSCF6060This is the front of the church.

DSCF6056We were met at the door of the Guest House by this cat, who had one blue eye and one green eye,

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 . . .

DSCF6065But we found a garden!

DSCF6076It was astonishing–beautiful and imaginative, and a bit medieval.

DSCF6077I fell in love with this garden–it’s the very thing a garden should be: otherworldly.

DSCF6079There were fountains and pools at every turn.

There was a sense that many gardeners had created this garden, and, also, how healing a garden can be.

DSCF6088We 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.

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DSCF6087DSCF6085

DSCF6099We sat outside in the setting sun, listening to the monks singing in the church, but felt too shy to go in.

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.

DSCF6112New Harmony is a whole other story, so I will only mention that we visited the visitor’s center, called the Atheneum. It was designed by architect Richard Meier, and built in 1979.

DSCF6111The 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.

DSCF6121DSCF6130A wonderfully cool rainstorm greeted us as we approached St Charles.

IMG_5642The little blue oil lamp is my souvenir from New Harmony, purchased at an antique store.

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

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5 thoughts on “A Visit to Saint Meinrad’s Monastery

  1. I enyoyed this post. It made me stop and think about how the monks spend their lives and how I spend mine. It must be wonderful to have the joy of good work, supportive brotherhood and purpose of life. Thank you for reminding me.

  2. What a wonderful experience for you and Jim. Our culture seems to value noise over silence, crowds over solitude, things over thoughts – all, aspects of extroversion. As an introvert, I relish pondering beauty over possessing it. Namaste. (PS – except when it comes to orchids. As you know. 🙂 )

  3. It was wonderful, and I’m glad we went. We came away with a lot to think about.

    Speaking of orchids, my orchid has little green buds along the stem! Very exciting! Fran

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