Friday, April 10, 2009

Monastic Reunion

This must be the year of reunions for me. Earlier in the week I received notice of my 40th high school reunion. Yesterday I received a letter from one of the monks at the monastery informing me of a reunion of former monks. I am happy to be included in this monastic reunion. In retrospect, my time in the monastery was relatively short and it happened over 35 years ago. In spite of its brevity it has had a profound effect on my life. The mere fact that I once lived in a monastery does not make me a holy person. I am a long way from holy. It did, however, radically change the way I think and the way I relate to life and the world around me. I think my time in the monastery brought to the surface a gift that is part of who I am. What is this gift? I think the gift is my contemplative attitude and awareness. My time in the monastery was not like attending a college. It was not about acquiring knowledge. What I acquired while going about my monastic day was a new sense of being. The prayer life, the work life, the community life, and the many hours of simply being alone in the beauty of the surrounding countryside, gave me new eyes and a new vision. I was blessed to be in the monastery at a time when many of the monks who came to Gethsemani as a result of Thomas Merton's influence or the disillusionment generated by World War II were in their prime. These senior monks were some of the most authentic people I have ever known. When I walk through the monastic cemetery today I remember and knew many of the monks who now sleep in eternity. If actually living in the monastery was not blessing enough, I am also blessed to live only an hour's drive away. In a sense I have never left the monastery because it has remained part of my life through all the years since I was a young novice. I am usually able to visit the monastery once or twice a month and I am still treated like a member of their extended family. It is my spiritual home in this world and when I am lucky I still occasionally sleep there in the peace and silence that generations of prayerful men have created.

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