Friday, October 12, 2012

Monastic Pilgrimmages of Varying Durations

The other  night I went to my writer's group meeting. It's a ragtag group, a few church people who are interested in writing but living busy lives. In fact, we're so busy that only one other member showed up. I was early, but that was OK. I had some rough drafts with me to work on.

That church writer's group is not the group that exchanges rough drafts. We have only met once, before last night, and we talked about our goals and how we planned to meet them.

Since only 2 of us came to the group, we had plenty of time to talk about his recent trip to the Abbey of Gethsemene.  He was headed to Kentucky for a wedding and decided to stay 2 extra days at the home of Thomas Merton.

He had a great trip.  We talked about the worship services.  We talked about his conversation with some of the monks, one of whom was alive when Merton was there and considered it his life's great grace to have known Merton.  We talked about silence:  how refreshing it is and how hard to find it in regular life.

Talking to my church friend made me yearn to return to Mepkin Abbey, but I've put off my fall trip until the winter.  Talking to him made me think about my own trips through the years and how blessed I've been by my association with monasticism.

I haven't done a great job of being monastic in these past years.  My life has grown increasingly noisy.  I only manage to pray the hours once or twice a day.  I always aim for balance but I never achieve it for long.

Of course, I remind myself that the monks don't always achieve it either.  On my last trip to Mepkin, I was surprised to find that the monks had instituted "desert days," because they felt so busy and overextended that they needed a day each month when they scale back.

Yesterday I dug out my journal that I was keeping in 2004 when I went to Mepkin for the first time.  I wrote about my yearning to go back, about wishing I had a job that would allow me to get to places like Mepkin Abbey and Lutheridge more often.

Oddly enough, now I do.  At the time, I was yearning for a job that would put me geographically closer.  Instead, my job morphed into an academic job that gave me more leeway about when I take vacation.

This week has been one of those weeks where it would be nice to be close enough that I could just drive out to one of my spiritual landscapes for an afternoon.  I'd like to take some hours to walk the grounds and to sit in silence.

Maybe this afternoon, I'll give myself a break and take a virtual walk by looking at old photos.

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