The full title of Dianne Aprile’s 1998 book is The Abbey of Gethsemani Place of Peace and Paradox. Written on the occasion of that Kentucky monastery’s 150th anniversary, I read it over the course of four nights. A most enjoyable read: it felt like a family history. Gethsemani is more than Thomas Merton, of course, and even without the ample pictures, this book would have held my interest.
I went on retreat there in 1989, my first after entering the life of lay ecclesial ministry. It was a friendly and hospitable visit, and an occasion for a significant continuing conversion experience for me. I recall my eight days there as a grace of the monks leaving me quiet and space to encounter the living God. Liturgy was sure a highlight for me.
I’ll be making a pilgrimage next week and including a Trappist monastery in my travels. The trip is mainly for a ministry interview. My wife and the young miss are ardently hoping the visit goes well–they want to relocate out there. But they are also trying to put the attempt in God’s hands, so they say. I mention that it is in my power to fumble the interview. But confidence seems to be holding its place. If I’m serious about heading to the frontiers–and this locale would certainly be a personal frontier–I’d best seek out companions who make it their mission to live at the boundaries of the world. I can think of few other companions as suitable as Cistercians.
The Trappists here hosted my first experiences of real retreat, back in my college days. I feel a great affection for the hardcore seriousness with which they take the monastic ideals. If I were going to be a monk, it might well be with the OCSO’s.
This was supposed to be a book review, so let’s get back to it. It’s a good book. Read it and ponder the pages. Better, visit the Gethsemani monks and go beyond the pages to the real frontiers of the spiritual life of monasticism.