Last week I spent 5 days living and working with the Benedictine monks of St. Andrew's Abbey in Valyermo, California. Their monastery is located in the high Mojave desert--just a stone's throw away from the San Andreas fault line. I thought you might like to see a few pictures.
Here's a shot of the terrain around the Abbey. While the Abbey grounds, themselves, are lush and green all around them is desert complete with lizards and snakes, sagebrush and Joshua trees.
Here is a shot of some of the monks during vigils--that is the first prayer service of the day, at 6:00AM. Part of our class experience was to pray 4 times a day with the monks.
We also spent time working with the monks--just doing some basic tasks (like stamping library books or cleaning dishes)--so that we could get a sense of their community life and also ask them any questions (personal or otherwise) in a comfortable, laid-back environment.
Here I am chatting with one of the two novices, Brother Cassian, as I stamp a few library books. Brother Cassian has only been with the order for 8 months--some of these guys have been monks for over 40 years!
Finally, a shot of me and my classmates and our professor, Dr. Carey--he's the one with the beard--standing with some of the monks. On the left is Brother Bede (he's on the end) and Brother Cassian again--they are both novices to the order--and on the other side is the novice director and now the new abbey prior (guy in charge of the abbey until they elect a new abbot), Fr. Damien.
I had such a great experience at the Abbey--and the monks are super cool. They are *anything* but uptight (well, the novices are a little stiff, but they are novices after all
) and are some of the most peaceful people I've ever met--even in adversity.