Separation from the World Connects You to the World

It is true that we monks live in a solitary setting on the prairies of Iowa. But we are still connected with the wider world. For instance, we hear every day from people who are grieving the loss of a loved one and are requesting a Trappist Casket. We are honored in this way to participate in the Gospel work of mercy of burying the dead. Here is a mystery: it is our very real separation from the world that inspires grieving families to reach out to us in the midst of an intimate family experience.

If you ever have occasion to spend time at our community bulletin board you will find prayer requests from all over the world pinned to it. In these urgent notes we hear the cry of God’s suffering children addressed to us with touching simplicity and trust. These brothers and sisters know instinctively that our monastic life separated from the world enables us to foster a life of continuous prayer for the world.

Likewise, visitors to our Guest House experience the gift of hospitality from the monks who, though strangers to the ways of world, as Saint Paul says (Rom 12:2), make room in their hearts for all men and women. Can we offer a prayer for you? A place to rest?

To honor the trust our brothers and sisters invest in our cloistered witness, we take the monastic enclosure seriously. We see the monastery buildings themselves and the grounds immediately behind as the enclosed garden where the Lover and her Beloved in the Song of Song encounter one another (Song 4:12). Even more, the community of brothers itself, our school of charity, is our proper place. We depend on one another and are accountable to one another. That is why we rarely leave the enclosure. That is why we don’t have smartphones and why we put limits on our online time. We keep our life simple and use our time for lectio divina and prayer. If we must be absent from the monastery, we show our brothers the courtesy of informing them that we will be away and for what purpose.