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A Mom at Gethsemani

Story ID:5237
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Trappist Kentucky USA
Person:Elizabeth Ficocelli
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I've been dipping into my smorgasbord of magazines - most of which are
not current. However, in each I find something timeless and worth reading -
even sharing.

In the 2005 St. Anthony Messenger- Elizabeth Ficocelli wrote so well "When a
Mom Retreats to Gethsemani." I think almost everyone has wanted to visit
Gethsemani - maybe because of Thomas Merton and his wonderful books.
Or maybe because this place is so utterly different from the world in which
we live and which some of us would have to confess we admire. Yes, for both
of those reasons - I wanted to read her inspirational account and was so glad
I took the time to do so.

As a mother of 4 lively sons -ages 5, 7, 10, and 14, you can understand why
Ficocelli craved some much needed peace and quiet and she decided -where
else would she find it but at the Abbey of Gethsemani? With a promise of four
peaceful days of prayer and contemplation, she happily packed her journal,
Bible, and prayer book.

From her home in Reynoldsburg, Ohio she drove south to Trappist, Kentucky to
join other women retreatants. At this retreat though she and the others
were discouraged from entering into friendly banter or conversations with
each other, and for her- this was no problem.

Though so removed from the world in the sprawling hills of Kentucky near
Bardstown, the Trappists have nevertheless welcomed visitors to their
sanctuary for the past 150 years. For them we are a sign of Christ and are
therefore always welcome. It is not unusal that pilgrims come each year from
different faiths and backgrounds to get a taste of monastic life and spend some
time alone with God.

The monks own 2,000 acres of land which were once doted with herds of sheep
and cattle but which are long gone. Also missing are the acres of vegetable
gardens that helped provide the monks with their daily vegetarian meals. Because
of their smaller numbers and older membership, they had to forego these sources
of income. Today a mail order business in which they sell homemade cheese,
fudge, and fruitcake enables the monks to continue the time honored labor of using
their hands -much as the apostles and early Christians once did.

But aside from those endeavors and offering opportunities to retreatants, the
central core of their existence is prayer. In addition to Mass, the Trappists
pray 7 times a day. The Liturgy of the Hours allows them to pray and chant
all 150 psalms over a 4-week period. These psalms contain every human
emotion and allow the monks to fulfill the four purposes of prayer which even
Catholic children are taught: to adore God, to thank him for his blessings, to
ask forgiveness for sin, and to ask him for his help and guidance.

So each day the monks hearken to a tradition which dates back 1,600 years
ago. The Hours are prayed at 3:15 a.m. (vigils), 5:45 a.m. (lauds and Mass), 7:30
a.m. (terce), 12:15 p.m. (sext) 2:15 p.m. (none) 5:30 p.m. (vespers) and 7:30 p.m.
(compline). I wondered -unlike the author- when did they sleep? I would imagine
they took to bed following the 7:30 p.m. compline prayers.

There is much more to her wonderful piece re Gethsemani with titles like:
"Silence Echoes in Soul," "Missing Noise," "Liberating Limitations," "Bringing
Peacefulness Home" and all these were certainly worth reading, but time
and space precludes me from condensing them for this post.

However, in closing, while I never read Thomas Merton's "Seven Story Mountain,"
I have learned other things about him which makes me wish that he had not
died so early. One thing I feel strongly about was I believe that he would have been
a voice for the voiceless- the animals. For that reason, I daily pray that one day he
may be raised to the altar of sainthood. But if not, remembering him each day
always gives me a sense of peace knowing that he would have spoken up for the
animals which we daily mistreat the world over. I think he is probably doing this in
heaven anyway.

If anyone wants to read more about Gethsemani- their website is www.monks.org.