30 July 2010

Redwoods Monastery

I said I would write about retreat, but that will take some time, not only to process personally, but also to determine how it should best be done. Let me say at this point only that it was a very special week, a week at a Trappistine monastery (abbey) where silence, solitude and community, all under the Rule of Benedict was the order of the day, 24/7 (well, 6.5; Sunday is a bit different). I will also say that I have never felt more at home anywhere, and that the unexpected bond forged with this community of women religious and monastics I consider one of the greatest gifts of and from God I could have received. And lest any of you wonder if I am going to run off and "join the Trappistines," the answer is no. Precisely because this place felt so like home to me I am clearer than ever that I am called to be a diocesan hermit, and an urban hermit at that. However, in one way and another, Redwoods will also be an important part of living that with integrity, I suspect. Time and prayer will tell.

Located in or near what is called "The Lost Coast" in Northern California, Redwoods is a small monastery (actually now an Abbey), one of five women's Cistercian monasteries in the US. The drive once one turns off the freeway or main highway nearest the monastery is about 45 minutes. Redwoods has, counting the Trappist chaplain who ministers to the community, 11 members. One Sister is newly solemnly professed, one will make solemn profession in mid August, and one is a novice. The sisters grow most of their own food (the diet is vegetarian as in many monastic houses), and support themselves from the sale of flavored creamed honey and the reception of guests from May through late October or early November. Guest quarters (which are about 1/8 - 1/4 of a mile or so from the monastery proper) are simple (even rustic) but comfortable, food (usually taken in a guest dining room with a small library, refrigerator, etc) is nourishing, plentiful and excellent. Guests may join the sisters in all liturgical services (Divine Office, Eucharist, daily meditation sessions). They may also assist in work around the monastery if they arrange that with the guestsister. The grounds (300 acres) are simply magnificent, forest and grassland along with a river running through. (Some of this is cloistered and posted so, but there is plenty of common area otherwise.) Wildlife is ubiquitous --- especially deer (all the does had fauns, and all were comfortable and grazed right up to the buildings --- one doe bedded down next to the wall in the shade of one of the guesthouses after dinner (lunch) one day; she looked up as I passed but never moved otherwise).

A retreat may not be feasible for some readers (one may stay for shorter periods), but consider purchasing honey or otherwise supporting this monastery. It is "the real deal" --- a gift to both Church and world, and deserves whatever support people can give. To purchase honey online, google Redwoods Monastery and click at the top of the website on honey. Also available are watercolor cards, bookmarks, and pen and ink cards done by the Sisters (mainly Sister Victoria, I think). Finally, the Sisters have their library in an original (and, in places, somewhat ramshackle) building and need a new library which would allow them to house the really fine monastic collections now living in boxes or endangered by weather, etc. This would be accessible to guests part of the time, and would be part of the cloistered area the rest. If any readers could seriously consider contributing to this project, I hope they will do so. It is an investment in a significant instance of genuine, living Cistercian Tradition.

Note: I will put up some of my own photos as I have time. These three (chapel, honey and Sisters working in the honey house) are taken from the Monastery's own website.