Chanting with Monks (and other spiritual disciplines)

It's time to tell all I know about the daily life of a Benedictine monk. Unfortunately, still not that much. At least at the Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, California, they lead a very private, hidden life.

abbey_200pxThe Abbey is a retreat hosting site for pretty much any group, I believe. It should be obvious by now that you don't have to be catholic to stay there. And it's a very beautiful, tranquil spot up on a hill overlooking a city panorama, including a glimpse of the ocean about three miles away.

julie_monks_200pxMy only chance to visit with the monks was at meals where only a couple each day had cooking and cleanup duty in our dedicated "guest cafeteria." I found them to be quite sociable and delightful—if you approached them first. They are either a little shy or else just trying to maintain a worshipful and respectful environment for the retreat attendees, as most of the attendees are there for a special time of silence and solitude, one of the Benedictine disciplines. There are actually many areas on the premesis where no talking is aloud.

sunset_ocean_200pxOur retreat leader actually walked us through many Benedictine practices, which are great spiritual disciplines for everyone pursuing more intimacy and deeper fellowship with God. There are actually two types of disciplines that work together in the Benedictine worship life—abstinence and engagement.

Disciplines of Abstinence:

  • Fasting

  • Sabbath

  • Secrecy (I think such as for fasting, praying, and giving)

  • Vigils (periods of prayer)

  • Waiting

  • Frugality

  • Silence and Solitude

Disciplines of Engagement:

  • Lectio Divina (meditation on God's Word for special illumination/application by the Holy Spirit

  • Communion

  • Memorization

  • Study

  • Service

  • Celebration

  • Play

  • Praise

  • Journaling

  • Discernment

  • Submission

  • Obedience

The interesting observation by the monks (and probably all who make these a regular practice of life) is that the disciplines of abstinence open up spaces in our lives for the disciplines of engagement. I think a good way to say it is that they make us hungry to act out the filling elements of our faith. Very interesting angle.

chanting_monks_200pxLastly, we got to chant with the monks. I personally attended two chanting services. Just like my one experience in a convent once (the nuns definitely couldn't sing like Whoopie Goldberg), it wasn't as Hollywood as I imagined it would be, but I think, in part, it was because of the declining numbers of monks these days. There were only about 20 or so, and if the chapel had been full of monks, it would have been powerful. And to their credit, these monks could carry a tune. Basically, they take a very simple tune (just 2-3 notes), and they sing the Psalms to them. They actually get through all 150 Psalms once a month by having three chanting services a day. It was pretty cool!

chapel_200pxSo that is my experience with monks, which doesn't include the many ways God showed up and spoke to me that weekend about so many things heavy on my heart. It was so amazing!! My purpose for being there was just to be silent and sit at the feet of God without expecting anything in return. But in listening, I was rewarded with His presence.

More next entry on exactly what I was doing there, what God spoke into my life, and who I was with…

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Posted in categories: Snapshots from Julie's Life | Travel Diaries