- Becoming a Trappist
- Monastic Life
- Monastic Culture
- Our Monasteries
- Visitor's Questions
- Write to Us
"So — what was it made you want to be a monk?" Occasionally I run into a young person in the guest house and, out of the blue, they'll pop that question. I'm caught off guard and they stand there looking at me, waiting for an answer. Fr. Severin had been a monk for sixty years when, in his eighties, he got the job of greeting school groups in front of the monastery.
We recently celebrated the Epiphany, the "manifestation" of God in the birth of the child Jesus. A week later, I feel like the celebration is only now beginning. We just received news that James wants to join the monastery and will return to begin his Postulancy in a few days. Every time one of these young guys shows up and tells you in all earnestness: "Father, I think God may be calling me to be a monk . . ." well, for me, it's like seeing Jesus born again. It is an Epiphany. Jesus is very real for me in the arrival of these young men. James is 29 years old and looks like he's about 20.
Dear Brother Placido — at moments, we North Americans must seem to him to have come from another planet. You have to admire the quiet trust and persistence with which he endures the awkward moments and the disconcerting encounters with our North American culture. I guess a certain feeling of displacement is the lot of a man from Peru sharing a cloister with thirty-five North American men in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa. Even so, I sometimes wish I could spare him the pain of it. Placido is a Junior monk, a devout and very intelligent guy.
A week ago or so, the roof of the chip barn caved in. Days and days of unusually heavy snow piled up and the weight was finally too much. It's a fifty year old barn and has long served as storage for the wood chips we burn to generate steam that heats the monastery. A barn this old — you assume it will be there forever. Strolling out past the Quarry Field and around the bend I was unnerved by the spectacle of the folded roof which triggered an uncanny association with the famous "folded Christ" in Van Der Weyden's painting "The Deposition". We were in a bind.
About 2:15 this afternoon, I'm on my way to work at the carpenter shop, and I come to the top of the hill in front of the farm office where the gravel road slopes about one hundred feet to a bridge over a creek. About half way down, I spot a small red car off to the side of the road with its tires spinning. A woman has just climbed out of the passenger side and, about the time it occurs to me that the couple has run off the road, I'm suddenly on my butt, sliding toward them across the ground. The road under me is a perfect sheet of ice.
I am sitting in the "sun room" of the monastery infirmary — a beautiful space, transfigured by light pouring in from several windows that go almost from floor to ceiling — not a likely setting in which to be introduced to feelings of hardened skepticism toward life. Maybe because my heart is lulled by the radiance of the sunny room and the gentle murmur of our conversation, maybe just because I'm feeling hopeful and grateful today, my guard is down. In a moment, I trip, I fall, and find myself wallowing in the heart of post-modern darkness.