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Visit St. Andrew's Abbey

It was over ten years ago I first went there. Located on 800 acres near Valerymo, California it offers prayer, worship, quiet, simple food and a simple guest house.

Their vocation is hospitality, this is one monastery that welcomes and includes guests. You can talk to the monks, sing along with them at worship, or attend one of many workshops they offer during the year.

The day begins with silence, broken only for an early worship service. Then there is a silent breakfast. This is a real challenge for some people and exposes all our worries about how we can survive. It begins the day for me with a chance to be attentive: attentive to every sensation of eating, to the light playing on the wooden tables, to the colors and textures of the food.

St. Andrew's web site (Up 12/31/03; posted 7/13/99)
(Click on the pictures for a larger image)

The morning offers a time to go walking. There are many trails through their scrub lands, or you can take off cross country and get totally away from anyone. And then, of course, you discover that in getting away from your problems that you have brought them with you and one by one they surface. But, alone, in this spiritual environment, you can examine and deal with them, seek resolution to them.

There is much in the Bible about desert experiences; here you can enter your own desert and experience the same dynamic of purification.

There is mass at lunch time, for us non-Catholics, this is a bittersweet experience, a reminder that despite the hospitality of those who follow Christ, the institution still keeps us separate.

Rustic stations of the cross provide assistance with your meditation.

Perhaps in the afternoon you will want to visit the bookstore, gift shop or ceramic shop. Naturally, I head to the wonderful bookstore which is one of the finest collections of religious books you will find. Some monasteries have only the most embarrassing of pious kitsch in their bookstore, but St. Andrew's has a superb and wide ranging collection.

They also have an excellent library with a full collection of patristic writing. I have been privileged to study there, I'm honestly not sure what rules restrict access to it. Consult with the guest master.

Father Luke in the library.

Worship, dinner, and evening prayer and silence again at night. Of course, if you wish to talk in your room, that is fine. Few guests in fact observe the silence. But it is only when we become silent that we can listen, and listen to what God is trying to tell us.

The back of the guest house.

You can see the room. Simple, concrete block walls, not fancy. Thank God. It is all you need. And another dimension of growing spiritual awareness is to become aware of how you have all you need and you need less than you think. You can entertain yourself for an hour with the beauty in one vista, if you keep looking. You can study five verses for an entire day if you keep listening and rereading them.

A typical room in the guest house.

Last updated 12/31/03; © 2003 John P. Nordin