Welcome! This blog celebrates both the local and the catholic -- that is, universal -- aspects of the Roman Catholic Church by sharing reflections on experiences of the Church in a variety of settings and cultures. Postings will come from around the world and around the corner. You don't have to be a Catholic to come along.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In the Garden of Gethsemani

The nicest thing about the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Ky., is that my smart phone doesn't work very well there.

That means when I go on my annual retreat right before or during Lent, as I did last weekend, I really get away from things. It's Tuesday, and I'm still relaxed.

Gethsemani is a place of silence, or meant to be. In the past the sound of chit-chat among other retreatants often has reached distracting and disappointing levels, but not this year. The silence was golden.

A friend and I have visited the abbey, deep in the heart of bourbon country, in 14 of the last 16 years. On our first visit we sat for about 90 minutes with Fr. David DeVore in the hermitage that had belonged to Thomas Merton, probably the most famous Catholic monk of the 20th Century.

Merton is buried under a simple cross at Gethsemani, and now so is Fr. DeVore.

Within the past few weeks they were joined by Fr. DeVore's friend Fr. Matthew Kelty, another monk of Gethsemani. Fr. Kelty was famous for the marvelous talks he used to give after Compline, the service that begins at 7:30 p.m. The nonogenerian had to give that up a few years ago, but on our last visit he was still a highly visible part of the community of monks. His absence this year was palpable.

R.I.P. Fr. Matthew. R.I.P. Fr. David. R.I.P. Fr. Louis. Your crosses are like flowers in the garden of Gethsemani.