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Walk #331: I Meet a Monk...

Posted Nov 27 2009 12:00am
Off to the Monastery!

The inside of the Monastery's church. The Monks sit on the other side of the fence...

The old Monk, walking with his cane, goes to the Church after talking to me...


After work.

I head down to check out "Oakville Grade". This is the road (in the middle of the Napa Valley) that Robin Williams lives on. I've never checked it out---so I am here to walk.

Raining. I don't bring an umbrella, but don't mind, as the rain is refreshing. I walk by some vineyards--as the road has no shoulder.

On the hill ahead I see what looks like a mansion. Check it out.

I get closer to the mansion and see a sign: A Carmelite Monastery. Seeing as I have a rather monkish haircut, I decide to investigate.

I walk up the hill to the Monastery, with the stations of the cross every twenty yards or so, carved in concrete ,set up as artwork on the side of the road.

When I get to the top of the hill, there is a church. Beautiful! Refreshing that the church is open--I go inside. Cathedralish, with tall, tall ceilings. A crucifix hangs from the ceiling. The church is divided in half by an iron fence. Interesting. I take a few photos and say a few prayers. The larger half is restricted access.

I leave.

Outside there is a man walking with a cane. I go over and walk with him a bit: him, with his cane; me, with my walking stick with turkey feather.

I find out he is a Monk (sans robe). He entered the monastery in 1945. We talk. He states that this Monastery earns money by giving three day seminars on prayer.

"How much does it cost", I ask?

He states that it is $75 a day, including room and board. I think about the "Hoffman Process" (a White Collar Cult whose grounds I had visited earlier this year) with their six thousand dollar fee for a week long seminar. This feels much more authentic to me. A sign advertises a lecture by one of the Monks on St. John of the Cross.

The Monk and I talk some more. I tell him about my admiration for Henri Nouwen, and his excellent "Genessee Diary" whereby Nouwen describes his one half year in a Trappist Monastery. He tells me about the cathedral. They wouldn't build things like that anymore, the fence that divides the church is to make sure that visitors don't interrupt the Monks when they are saying their daily psalms.

This Monk moves slowly. He walks with a cane and I join him for a bit. He tells me about the Monastery: seven Monks live there. He speaks with an Irish accent. He tells me about Monastic life: "We have our first mass at 6 am; we can go to bed whenever we want to".

I ask him one last question? This Monk is elderly--- I ask him: "Did you have a good life being a Carmelite Monk?"

A twinkle comes to his eye and he says "Oh yes, this was the best of lives"....

I believe him.

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