This past week was our spring break. Most of my friends headed out of town immediately after their last class, but I hung around for a few days before driving down to Bardstown, Kentucky to spend a week at the Abbey of Gethsemani. After a 2.5 hour drive, I pulled into the huge monastery, situated among the beautiful, rolling Kentucky hills.
I checked in, got settled in my room, and entered into the monastic silence. The abbey is run by the Trappist monks, also known as the Order of Cistercians of Strict Observance, who practice a very intense monasticism. Though they do not take vows of silence, they maintain silence throughout the day and night, in addition to regular fasting, vows of poverty and chastity, and lots of prayer.
So what did I do for four days in a silent abbey? I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours with the monks, a set of 7 prayer services a day that start at 3:15 am and continue regularly until 8 pm when the monks go to bed. I also read, enjoyed the good Trappist cheese and fudge, and spent time journaling, reflecting, praying alone, and enjoying the quiet time.
In addition to the huge, simple, church, the monks maintain some huge grounds where there are a bunch of hiking trails. So I hiked in the mornings alone, enjoying the solitude and peace in nature, then spent time alone in the afternoons between prayer services.
These monks live incredible lives, totally dedicated to worshipping God all the days of their lives. The abbey is truly a place of worship. As one’s thoughts settle in the permeating silence, you easily come to find God in the beauty of nature, worship, and solitude.