What distinguishes a Trappist monk from other monks? All monks have a way of life, but Trappist monks have a way of life which includes self-knowledge. Time spent in prayer and meditation leads us to the truth about ourselves, which is humility. Learning the truth about ourselves leads us to recognize the truth about others, which is compassion. Knowing the truth about ourselves and others allows us to catch a glimpse of the truth about God, which is contemplation. This path is not a straight line. Often, we find ourselves standing once again in the Dark Wood of error. Over and over we discover humility and compassion, spiraling ever deeper into our conversion and into mystery.
Our community began in 1825. French monks, anxious to keep their heads, sought a place to freely practice their religion in safety. Safety was found first in Nova Scotia and then in Cumberland, RI. However, with a late-night bar down the street and a racetrack around the corner, the monks moved to Spencer, MA in 1950 where the world would not intrude so much. Today we are the Trappist monks of Spencer.
We begin our day in darkness. We rise at 3 a.m. when peaceful stillness encompasses all. We gather together as a community, and then we keep watch and we listen. And if we listen well, the stillness speaks to us. We rise at 3 a.m. because this is different from the rhythm of the world, because to be sacred is to be set apart.
We begin our day in silence and we end our day in silence. The greatest things are accomplished in silence: the progression of our thoughts, our acts of generosity, our ability to endure and overcome, the motions of our hearts. Silent forces are strong forces.
Photograph from the Abbey archives. Reflection by Brother Brian