The monastic refectory at Mepkin Abbey, South Carolina

I’ve just uploaded five sets of photos to Flickr from August when I had my month at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina as a monastic guest.  Mepkin is a monastery of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance (OCSO), who used to be [and still commonly are] known as Trappists.  Mepkin is a daughter-house of Gethsemani Abbey, in Kentucky, where Thomas Merton was a monk.

I had originally planned to visit Mepkin during my sabbatical time which I was due for about 2010.  My sabbatical got “upgraded” to canon law studies, so my other sabbatical plans got shelved.  This past [North American] summer I thought I’d use the break time to visit Mepkin as I had originally planned since I had the time.  I figured that it might be the last time that I’d have the luxury to do this for some time.

It’s not so easy to find a monastery that you can stay in for more than a few days at a time, but I did find Mepkin.  Their monastic guest programme allows men to stay for a month, and to essentially share the life of the monks, doing everything that they do.  Obviously it is one way to assist those considering a monastic vocation, but the monastic guest programme is open even to those who aren’t looking to enter the monastery (like myself).

My time at Mepkin was very spiritually fruitful, and – I might add – very affirming of my secular vocation!  It was particularly nice to spend time in a community of the same Order in which I was a novice ten years ago (at Tarrawarra Abbey, in Melbourne, Australia).

You can see the photos here.