“From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised.” Psalm 113
Recently, I was blessed to book a private retreat at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia.
At first, I wondered if I would feel at home in this austere setting. By the second day, I welcomed the beautiful order of the monks day, setting a rhythm for my mind and body.
A typical day in the life of a Trappist monk starts at 4am with vigils or “watching in the night”. The monks then have a very ordered daily routine of prayer and work, following the Rule of St. Benedict.
I welcomed the sound of the bells throughout the day, calling the monks to prayer. The church itself was an oasis of peace and solitude. A sign posted outside the massive doors, invites visitors in to rest or pray.
Those staying at the retreat house are invited to join the monks in the chanting of the Liturgy of the Hours in the choir stalls that line both sides of the marble aisle leading to the tabernacle. The chanting was truly remarkable and a blessing to me as a singer.
The last prayers of the day are called “compline” (night prayer). Compline is a masterpiece of composition, the work of St. Benedict himself, and can be called the ideal night prayer. Its symbolism is beautiful. The church is dark, with the only light focused on the tabernacle. Compline concludes with the ringing of the Regina Coeli during the Easter season or the Angelus during the rest of the liturgical year. Finally, after a short pause for reflection, the abbot or prior gives a knock at which time the community and guests come forward for the blessing with holy water. After Compline until the following morning after Lauds/Mass is a period of the “great silence” when monks do not talk.
In a world where we are assaulted with noise and media from all directions, it is a joy to know there exist such holy places of peace and order. May God continue to bless all our dear monks around the world.