My friends Elizabeth and James (the ones driving around the US for a travel blog) posted about a great little trappist abbey in Oregon’s Wine Country. Seclusion and prayer on Abbey Road. If you click on the link, you’ll be able to view an audio slide show as well. This is a place that I’ve wanted to do a 30 Day Monastic Retreat at for some time. I’m hoping to make it work sometime in the near future. I’ve quoted her text below:
We pull into Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey at 6 a.m., the modest grounds emerging from a thick fog at the edge of the long and desolate Abbey Road in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
It is a black morning, but Father Martinus greets us with a cheery shake of the hands; we find out later that our guide was, and usually is, awake by 2.
The atmosphere on the grounds is deliberately cloistered. Among the monks’ many vows is silence, practiced at various intervals throughout the day. We slip quietly into the church behind Father Martinus and take our seats among the dozen laymen gathered for Mass.
We later learn that the name Trappist is derived from the Cistercian Abbey of La Trappe, whose monks took refuge in Switzerland in the late 1700s when the French Revolution suppressed all religious houses. Trappist monks have for centuries lived by a strict code of poverty and seclusion, as set out by the Rule of St. Benedict.
Here, on the outskirts of the tiny enclave of Carlton, is no different. One by one the monks fill the front of the church, their long white robes glowing in the dim flicker of candlelight. Some of the monks are so old they stand leaning forward, hunchbacked and frail. I wonder how well they can hear the Abbott as he leads the church in Mass. It is a somber scene.
After prayers we meet with Father Martinus and are introduced to a few of the monks. Most are too shy to be interviewed, but Father Martinus can barely contain his enthusiasm; he has been with this order in Carlton since it moved from New Mexico in 1955, and he is delighted to share his home. He is an exceptional storyteller with a gift for vivid scene-setting, and he translates brochures into several languages for the abbey.
Thirty-two monks inhabit this order, down from 60 in 1955. There is also typically a small number of retreatants, who can stay for as short as a day and as long as a month. Brother Paul, a graduate of Notre Dame, is among the youngest in his 30s, and Brother Clarence, who tends to the abbey’s forest, is among the oldest in his 80s. And yet age doesn’t seem to matter here; the men share such fundamental beliefs that they become united through their choices, not their experiences.
The day progresses slowly, a welcome change from the chaos of our last few days in Portland. Throughout the grounds the monks speak in near whispers. Their movements are deliberate. Their schedules are tight. Church bells chime with each passing hour, and the simplicity is disarming. We breathe the clean air deeply.
When we pull away from the monastery at noon, past the 1,000 acres of forest, the sky is a pale gray and flocks of birds form shifting patterns above us. We are only an hour outside of Portland on our first stop of the Pacific Northwest leg of our tour, and already we have happened upon a place that feels worlds away.