What the Monk Said

PART THREE (the conclusion)

(To start at the beginning of my monastery journey, you can read Part One, here. Part Two can be found here.)

A man stands talking to the monk, but as soon as he leaves, I make a beeline for the desk. I have planned my opening line. One of the bookstore shelves had a small card on it, printed with the endorsement: “Brother Martin’s Favorites – ask him why!”

“Are you Brother Martin?” I ask.

I don’t think he is, of course – the monks take turns manning the desk, so I have about a one in twenty-five chance – but it’s the best icebreaker I can think up.

To my surprise, he smiles and nods his head. “I am.”

Here we go. Continue reading


Silent Meals, Reading, and the Worst. Map. Ever.


(If you missed Part One, and you don’t know why I’m spending my 40th birthday in a monastery, you can read about it here.)

I don’t sleep well that night, of course. I rarely do; and here, the floors are creaky and the bed is small. I futz around, moving furniture, rearranging pillows, nearly knocking the crucifix from the wall once, when I flail around with extra blankets.

The monks gather in the chapel for Vigils at 4:15 a.m. I do not join them. Continue reading

Milestones and Monasteries


The sky threatens rain and is growing darker as I drive west, deep into wine country. It is the afternoon of my 40th birthday, and I will spend the next 48 hours largely in silence and solitude. Tomorrow will be my first day off in four-and-a-half long years; this trip is my husband’s surprise gift to me.

I am headed to a Trappist Monastery. And I could not have conjured up a more pleasing destination, at this moment of my life.

As a lifelong introvert, someone who craves silence and solitude, having babies and becoming a full-time mom has been an excruciating adjustment. Every moment of my life is now shared. Every minute brings a new demand. On the cusp of my 40th birthday, I feel about 80. I am exhausted and depleted. Continue reading