Mount Angel in a beautiful little German town in the Williamette Valley of Oregon. Just north of Salem, tucked up next to the quaint community of Silverton. A farming community with rich soil, quickly filling with vineyards and flower farms. Mt. Angel is the home of the Benedictine Monastery and Abbey. The monks live up on the hill in the abbey overlooking the valley and the Sisters live in the monastery in the valley below. The Sisters are very active, and in accordance to the Benedictine precepts live their faith, discipline and service to the world and the community. They are loved and respected for their commitment and humanitarian services. They are teachers, nurses, pastors, counselors, artisans, gardeners, cooks, caregivers; providing religious, spiritual and cultural support .
When I was 38, I sojourned in the monastery for a time. I exchanged work services for room and board. My room was small, 8×8, with a single bed, small table, chair, dresser and a shelf. I was on the third floor of the original monastery, Howard Hall, which was soon to be torn down because of earthquake damage. When the wind howled the building creaked and swayed as the huge maple trees slapped her branches against the windows. On nights like this I was often in my room writing and drawing or taking a late-night stroll down the empty halls to the library or kitchen for a cup of tea. The rich patina of devotion and monastic life was present in every breath and footstep. Dark wood and ripply glass reflected muted and distorted images off their surfaces. In its quiet, the subtle voices of prayer sifted through the nooks and crannies.
Deep, deep is the story of the abbey and the Sisters. I am forever thankful for the time I spent there. Through their generous love, hospitality, and commitment to monastic life and service, I learned. I listened, worked and gleaned. These are wise and strong Sisters living in reverence. Everything is sacred, and it is evident from their gardens, to their laundry room to their chapel. Their outreach is commendable and without prejudice.
The Sisters are also a part of a campaign called For Whom the Bell Tolls, an organization to end state sanctioned killing. For every execution in the U.S. the monastery “tolls the bell”, in a position of solidarity to bring awareness to the inhumane practice of sanctioned execution.
My thoughts are with the Sisters. In the spring when the snows melt and the flowering bulbs start to show their color, I will take a drive over the mountain and visit Mount Angel; Walk the gardens, smell the air, feel the soil, hopefully lend my hand to a project and spend some time with the Sisters.
For more information about the Sisters and the monastery go to www.benedictine-srs.org/index.htm
For more information about the For Whom the Bell Tolls campaign, go to www.curenational.org/~bells/index.html