My wife, Michele, and I will be traveling into the Deep South, making our annual pilgrimage to see my son Joshua, now Brother Dismas, of the Order of Cistercians, Strict Observance – he is a Trappist. These are exceptional days: a chance to spend time with this gifted young man, a chance to drink up the quiet of the abbey, a chance to enter into a different pattern of life (we always get to most of the daily prayer services, with the exception of Vigils at 3:15AM!). This quiet fabric of prayer, music, and a tiny abbey nestled on the banks of the Cooper River make for a much-needed change of pace, as compared to the driven, high-energy culture of Notre Dame.
You can see from this picture that the entrance to Mepkin just whispers of the South: the Spanish moss hanging from the trees, the long, graceful lane lined with live oak trees. It is a place of uncommon quiet and solitude. And it is now the place our son calls home, and has for seven years.
One of the vows professed by a monk is that of stability, and I find myself caught up more and more in this aspiration. What does stability mean in this culture? So much of what we experience is fleeting, transitory, and bound up in self-serving diversion. Yet here, things are quiet and slow. There is time to think. And lots of time to pray.
We will be walking this lane a lot in the next week, often in the pre-dawn hours and at dusk, as we join the brethren in their prayer, and in their song. Despite their quiet, there is not much that can stop a monk from singing, unless it be their final breath.