In January 2012, God brought me to a place of complete physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion and depression and then unexpectedly opened the door for me to retire after twenty years of running customer sales and service call centers. I understood Him to be telling me to take a sabbatical and get rested in preparation for my next mission, which He will reveal in due time. One of my first thoughts was to take time for a retreat with Cathie Powell, who founded a contemplative ministry in Greenville, SC, called The Anchorage. She was leading a retreat at Mepkin Abbey in March, but I had a schedule conflict. However, I took time to explore the Mepkin Abbey website and learned about their monastic guest program, a thirty day program for men to live, worship, and work like one of the monks. I felt God drawing me to participate, thinking that perhaps He was going to use that time to reveal my next assignment. My first question to Father Guerric: Is a non-Roman Catholic person permitted to participate in the monastic guest program? He told me that the program was open even to Presbyterians like me! So, I submitted an application explaining my situation and why I wanted to participate and when I was available. Father Guerric let me know I was accepted for June 2012 and I began to make preparations. My wife thought 30 days might be a little long and several other folks suggested that I try a shorter retreat first. I understood their concerns, yet felt that God wanted me there for 30 days – as fully unplugged from distractions as I have ever been and surrounded by men who are sold out to pursuing God and being pursued by Him. As my time to depart for Mepkin drew closer, God made it clear to me that this time would not be about revealing my next assignment, but rather, it would simply be time for Him and me to be together. And, so it was.
Luke 9:22-24 (English Standard Version)22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.Read More »
I arrived at Mepkin abbey in the beginning of September. The weather was warm and clear and the days were starting to get shorter, giving every prayer at compline a unique character as the sun set over river and cast its last burning rays through the high church windows while the monks sang to God, asking for his protection through the night.
Whether at church singing, in my cell praying, walking through the beautiful gardens, or even snipping micro-greens for work, I found myself completely immersed in the monastery’s peacefulness and quiet I had read about.
Every day was alike and structured in a rhythm with bells and buzzers ensuring you stay on schedule. There is nothing to worry about in the immediate future. Sing, pray, read, eat – no worries. It is a precious gift, a peek into paradise. Earthly cares receded, and the trivial clamour that occupied my thoughts slowly dissipated. I could explore the excellent library at my leisure, pray with more clarity and peace than ever before and more freely accept God’s love through the brothers.
But, after all, Mepkin is still on planet earth. Petty grievances, resentment, frustration, pride, sin. It was all still in me. Glimpsing transcendence is not the same as attaining it. The struggle to be who we are called to be does not end by walking through a gate, far less so if only for a month!
But here at Mepkin, the living of my faith could attain a higher pitch. Not that I emerged from the monastery with a Zen-like wisdom, but that Mepkin is a place where God speaks. And if one goes there with even a shred of openness, one will hear far more than may be understood or obeyed. One will have a glimpse into God’s love and will not be able to leave entirely unaffected.Read More »
Please join us in praying for the men who are discerning a call to our life. Four will be making a first visit during December: Steven, Carmine, Michael, Bruce Michael and Adam. One will be making his second visit during December: Matt. Three have asked to make a first visit during January: Leo, Paul and David. And we ask you prayers for Joe who has visited a number of times and will be coming for a three month observership in the summer of 2012.Read More »
I woke up, slightly confused at first. I immediately got out of bed and shut the alarm off, which was across the room. The clock read 2:55 am. I got into the unfamiliar shower. I couldn’t say how long I let the water beat against my head. I put on the many layers of clothes which I had set down on a chair the night before. I combed my hair, took a look at myself in the mirror, and left into the terrible February cold, flashlight in hand. It was raining. I sloshed through the puddles, a parking lot, a foot bridge, and finally the winding sidewalks.
When I took my seat in the church, most of guys were already there. They looked relaxed, as if about to warm up for a soft ball game. At 3:20 am, one of them stood up, walked about two feet, and activated the bells from an electronics box. They rang from a tower right outside, and the noise pierced the 50 foot ceiling of the church. Everyone stood, and I followed suit. As the bells died down, a knock emanated from somewhere. The men traced a cross on their chest with their finger, and bowed deeply towards the front of the church. Some one sang “Lord, come to my attention.” The men responded back “Lord, make haste to help me.” They recited the Lord’s prayer, which was different from the protestant version with which I grew up.
The cantor, with his guitar, began to play, and the men began to sing. I looked at my music stand, and it was littered with pages, books, and booklets. A brother walked over to my stand, saw an opened book, and sternly pointed to the song they were singing.
I had come to Mepkin to make sense of my life and to make sense of myself. But it was too early in the morning for anything to make sense. I got a scant five hours of sleep the night before, as I wasn’t used to an 8 pm bedtime. The Benadryl I had taken to aid my slumber was still doing a number on me. I felt like I was in a dream, as if nothing as fantastic as these ancient practices could actually exist.Read More »
The clock read 2:55 am. I put on the many layers of clothes which I had set down on a chair the night before. I combed my hair, took a look at myself in the mirror, and left into the terrible February cold, flashlight in hand. It was raining. I sloshed through the puddles, a parking lot, a foot bridge, and finally the winding sidewalks.
At 3:20 am, one of them stood up, walked about two feet, and activated the bells from an electronics box. They rang from a tower right outside, and the noise pierced the 50 foot ceiling of the church. Everyone stood, and I followed suit. As the bells died down, a knock emanated from somewhere.Read More »
On Friday, August 12, 2011, Jason Lowman arrived at Mepkin Abbey. Three months earlier and 4,200 miles ago he had left the Pacific Ocean in Oregon and rode across country as an outreach project for cancer awareness and to raise funds for a cure. He spent an hour sharing with the monks the “contemplative” dimensions of his journey. We agreed that Jason’s story will not only bring hope to those living with cancer but also help restore “hope” in humanity. If you would like to gain more information about Jason and read his journal of this awesome journey on his website at www.4000milesofhope.comRead More »