By Father Bob Kraig Wow! What an amazing week God blest me with last week (Oct. 10-14) when I made my yearly retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemane. My priest friend from Buffalo, whom I made the retreat with, had been there a couple of times before and told me how special this place is – and I was not disappointed.
From the moment we drove on to the grounds you could just sense the peace and the presence of God. There are 40 monks there now three of whom are novices in their 20s. Besides working at their jobs like making bread, fudge, doing pottery and/or attending to the grounds these men of God come to the chapel seven times a day (eight if you include the celebration of the Eucharist) to give praise, glory and honor to God.
While I was looking forward to seeing the grave of Thomas Merton I think I was more impressed with some of the conversations I had with some of the monks. I asked one what brought him there to Gethsemane. He replied that he was a professor teaching at a major European college. One night, he said, he had this awesome feeling come over him that he was so blest in life. He went to chapel and asked God how he could repay Him for being so blest; the thought of Gethsemane entered his mind and while he says he fought it for two years he eventually let God have the upper hand.
This same monk continued to relate to me that one of the monks there was from Cleveland and had over 80 people under him in the business world. He, too, was touched by God to leave everything and enter Gethsemane.
I admire these monks and was inspired by them so much. Their first time of prayer is at 3:15am. They also meet in the chapel at 5:45am followed by the celebration of the Eucharist at 6:10; this is followed by breakfast and prayer time with the psalms at 7:30am, 12:30pm, 3:15pm, 5:30pm and 7:30pm. They then retire.
The monk I chatted with said their families can visit them but they themselves do not go home. To see the grave of Thomas Merton was also an inspiring moment personally for me.
These men are very happy men. I could go on and on about my experience and retreat at Gethsemane but just ask you to keep these men of God in prayer. Gethsemane offers time for reflection and retreat to any person, religious, priest, lay, etc.
Again I thank God for the experience and pray not only for these men but that many of you may be able to experience time there in the future. God’s peace and blessings to all!