We’re here! After about eight hours of travel we arrived in beautiful of Mt. Angel, Oregon for our monastery vacation. Mt. Angel is a very German town, with Bavarian architecture and names of streets and restaurants in German. Evidently up until recently most of the people spoke German. Also, it’s so weird to be somewhere where you need to wear a jacket in the evenings and early mornings — very different from our 98-degree highs and 72-degree lows in Texas.
Right now we’re staying at the Shalom House of the Queen of Angels Monastery of the Benedictine sisters. Our plan was to stay at Mt. Angel Abbey the whole time, but they were booked for the first two days we’d be here, so we ended up here at Shalom. I’m so glad it worked out that way, because we love it here.
The sisters run a nursing home, food bank, homeless shelter, and of course the retreat house. My husband had a nice conversation with a 95-year-old nun who’s been here for more than 70 years. She said that originally they’d planned for people to stay at the homeless shelter no more than a few weeks, but they wouldn’t make people leave if they weren’t ready, so now they often have folks there for months. My husband asked her some question about how they were going to handle some aspect of the shelter, and she replied that it was still too new to know, saying, “We’re not sure yet — we only started it in 1988.”
At the Shalom house there are private rooms, but everyone shares a common living room, and common men and women’s bathrooms. As The Most Introverted Person in the World, I was a bit apprehensive when I first saw that setup, but I’ve found it to be surprisingly comforting to be so connected to other guests. It feels like we’re all one big family. Most of the other guests are iconographers who are here for a seminar, so it’s been fascinating to chat with them.
I had one of those moment where I forgot that social awkwardness is one of my charisms when I thought I might try to make conversation with the iconographers in Spanish; they all speak some English, but most are originally from Mexico. Wouldn’t it be nice to try to chat with them in their native tongue rather than having them speak English? I thought (my guardian angel shouting, “No! Don’t do it!” over my shoulder, as he does any time I try to interact with other humans.) Long story short, there was a bit of an awkward moment after I told them that I have a relative who is a monkey at Mt. Angel Abbey (confusing monje, monk, for mono, monkey).
When we booked this trip we signed up for the plans at both Queen of Angels and Mt. Angel Abbey where you get both lodging and meals, eaten in common with the nuns/monks and other guests. When we first arrived, I looked at the schedule and thought we’d made a terrible mistake. I didn’t like the idea of having to be somewhere at a certain time if I wanted to eat, and actually thought about canceling the meal plan. We ended up trying it, and it’s amazing how much it transforms your whole day to live according to the monastery schedule. I’ll write more about it later, but suffice it to say that it’s already been a powerful experience.
I printed out your prayer requests — all 50 pages of them — and look forward to going into the chapel to pray for you! I haven’t had a chance to do that yet, but I did have a rough day of travel to get here, and I offered up my suffering for all the intentions on that list. (Also, I just now saw that there are some new requests that recently came in. I’ll include those too!)
This morning I woke to the bells ringing across the monastery grounds, calling us to prayer. We got ready and headed over to the chapel, where the sisters chanted Psalms for about thirty minutes, then we had Mass, then everyone ate breakfast together. I knew it was time for lunch when the bells started ringing again. It makes me wish I lived close to a monastery: even if I couldn’t join them for prayer every day, there’s something so comforting to have the movements of the day announced by the music of bells.
This trip has already been an amazing experience, and we’ve only been here about 24 hours. I’m so grateful to be here!
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