Monastic Guest – James P Leahy
The Wonder of Mepkin and the Monastic Guest Program May 2018
Mepkin Abbey is a home away from home. After participating 18 years in the Monastic Guest Program, I slide into the routine like a hand into a glove. It is an extension of my life in Connecticut. In that sense, Mepkin is a monastery without walls.
I will be 80 years in August 2018 and, by grace, enjoy good health, spiritually, mentally and physically. Mepkin has helped quiet my soul, to live in the Present Moment, to live in the Presence of God, to age gracefully. While I have made great progress in this area, I have miles to go. And I look forward to the journey. To become more compassionate. To “listen with the ear of my heart” (St Benedict). To appreciate more that the Earth “is charged with the grandeur of God”(GM Hopkins).
The MG Program provides this by requiring MGs to immerse themselves in the prayer and work of the community. We pray the Hours seven times a day. Attend Mass daily. And work four hours a day six days a week. While this may seem like a rigid schedule, there is plenty of time for meditation, reading and exercise.
Over the years, the Hours have had a powerful impact on me. Especially chanting the Psalms.The individual monks and guests become one in the chant. In holy communion.
Often, a single phrase in a Psalm sung many times before can melt the heart to the point of tears. Not tears of sorrow, but of cleansing water.
After a few visits, a person gets to know the monks, the Mepkin family. With all the wonder and warts of our own families. Each one is on the journey of life sharing the road with us. Some feel the physical effects of aging. Some get testy when they are tired. Some break the silence once in a while. Just like folks outside the cloister. That said, they all guide by example. And seem to have infinite patience with occasional visitors.
The beauty of the place is astonishing. The Cooper River with all the life on the surface and in her womb. The Live Oak and Spanish Moss. The birds. The gardens. The church and library. The silence.
People are advised to get physical exams once a year. Especially after a certain age. The soul should be examined and refreshed as well. I do it twice a year. At Mepkin, my home away from home. I hope to return in the Fall.