Our Kentucky Home

By Tony Mussari

Every moment and every event of everyman’s life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men."           Thomas Merton                                          

If you drive about 700 miles east from Windsor Park, you will arrive at the gates of the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani. It’s a beautifully quiet place of spiritual health and healing.  It is a physically beautiful place decorated with simple reminders of what is really important in life.

Kitch and I wanted this to be our first stop on our cross country search for the Face of America. In the deepest part of our heart and soul, we believe that to successfully find the Face of America we must first connect with the Face of God.

That’s what happens at Gethsemani. People from all walks of life come here to experience what the Trappists describe as God Alone.

The monks live a God-centered life.  They pray seven times a day.  When they are not together in prayer, they work and they read.  They live mostly in silence, and contrary to popular belief, they do speak.  They do laugh. They do interact with visitors. 

We visited with two very engaging monks in the welcome center, Fr. Camillus Epp and Fr. Seamus Malvy, and one very joyful monk named Father Carlos at the reception desk in the retreat house.

I think it is fair to say that most people go to this sacred place not to talk with the monks, but to find peace of heart and mind.  That is most effectively done by being in the presence of these saintly men, participating with them in their prayer services, by walking alone in their garden and their cemetery.

It is found in the peaceful serenity of this place.  It is embedded in the artifacts of spirituality that are found in many different locations around the Abbey. It is found in the hospitality of the Benedictine Rule, the liturgical music and chanting that resonate off the plain brick walls of the monastery, and the majestic bells that crescendo from the bell tower throughout the day.

Kitch and I found it in the unpretentious simplicity and conversational way Mass was read at 6:15 in the morning.

Wherever we went and with everyone we spoke while we were at Gethsemani, people were happy, not a giddy, artificial, and commodified happy. It was genuine happiness deeply rooted in faith, worship and the words of St Benedict:

Let all guests that come be received like Christ.

Before we left the abbey, we made our way to the very simple marker that read Fr. Louis Merton, December 10, 1968. We stood in silence offering prayers for relatives and friends whose lives have been touched by tragedy. Then we knelt and placed a miniature 9/11 Remembrance Flag next to the cross honoring the monk who wrote these words:

"To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.

Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference."

Sometimes the face of America can best be seen in the gratitude we express for the freedoms we enjoy, especially religious freedom that is central to America .

Until the next time, we hope that all of your stories have happy endings.

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