No time to blog yesterday...due to a road trip I made to the Abbey of Gethsemani. Father Shamus and the other monks played host to the typical visitors - but this weekend, they also hosted the other abbots and abbesses from around the country. We spent time in conversation with Father Shamus and observed a traditional worship service as the monks chant (pray) the psalms.
The road trip was organized by Rev. Bill Kincaid for the New Horizons Sunday School class at Woodland Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Lexington.
The Abbey of Gethsemani is described by the monks as "a school of the Lord’s service, a training ground of love. Following Christ under a rule and an abbot, we Trappist/Cistercian monks lead a life of prayer, work, and sacred reading, steeped in the heart and mystery of the Church’s mission. Pupils in such a school as this come to know themselves, their God, and his great mercy. Clearly, the monks of this abbey walk in the footsteps of many whom God has called into the desert to follow Christ. The richness of this heritage is evident even from a brief overview of our story. Jesus and his call are always the beginning of discipleship. From the earliest days of the Christian era men and women ascetics have heard that call and followed the Savior in gospel simplicity and fidelity. Toward the end of the third century St. Anthony the Great led a movement of such persons (in effect the first monks) from the bustling world to the stillness of the desert. Life devoted to prayer and service in community was also widespread, and as the sixth century unfolded, St. Benedict of Nursia founded such an abbey at Monte Cassino in southern Italy. His Rule for Monks remains the most influential and enduring document of western monasticism."
A little history from monks.org (Yes...the monks are online)
Moved by a yearning for union with God, peace, and simplicity, they merely sought a closer adherence to the spirit and letter of St. Benedict’s Rule. The monastic community of Melleray (in France) weathered many crises over the centuries, since its founding in 1183, but remains in service today. In 1848, overcrowded conditions and political unrest in France prompted the creation of a new monastery. Friendship with their countryman, Benedict Joseph Flaget, Bishop of Louisville, drew the Trappists to the heart of Kentucky.
There the monks purchased from the Sisters of Loretto a farm in Nelson County named Gethsemani. A few log cabins served as a temporary monastery, and work began on the permanent building in 1852. Progress was slow and dragged on for years due to chronic lack of funds and the Civil War and was finally ready for use in 1866.
By the 1950s one-hundred-sixty-five monks lived in the Gethsemani community and new "daughterhouses" (monasteries) were formed in Georgia, Utah, South Carolina, New York, California, and Chile. The writings of Fr. Louis (Thomas Merton) and Fr. Raymond reached audiences world-wide.
In the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council directed the updating of religious life, and the Cistercian Order accordingly modified or discarded many of its customs. Each community now found new ways to live the Cistercian heritage in its particular culture and circumstances, within norms established by the General Chapter. Gethsemani was no exception. Committees, dialogue, and consultation, along with many other adaptations in the daily round, became routine. A “unity in pluralism” has characterized the abbey in the post-Vatican era, replacing the conformity of the past.