Trappist monks live in daily retreat from the distractions of the technological rat-race. Wrapped in rough-cut robes and wearing sandals, the members of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance have come to be known as the “Trappists,” a name taken from the ancient abbey of La Grande Trappe, whose spiritual descendants are scattered throughout the world in monasteries like this one.
I am accepted as a guest at this Trappist monastery. The monks’ daily rhythm of prayer and work will become my guide to enter into a deeper spirit of prayer. There will be three meals a day which I may take in silence or in subdued conversation with others on retreat. The food is simple fare: home-made bread, hearty soups, cooked vegetables and a modest amount of meat.
It happens to be Winter here in Iowa. The cold bites, especially in the morning when I like to take a walk on the monastery grounds. There, skeletons of trees sway in a brisk wind along the dirt path that is hard and icy in spots. Quiet rules here in the back fallow fields of Winter Iowa.
My morning walk is a metaphor for my retreat journey, and for my life’s journey. It seems I’m always on the way somewhere.
Someone told me recently that he likes cats as pets because they are peaceful. To watch them undulate through their lives effortlessly in your home can bring healing to a harried soul. However, I don’t like cats much. I do like monks, though. They bring me peace.