Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Visit to Mepkin Abbey

On Sunday afternoon my sister Elizabeth and I visited Mepkin Abbey, which is in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, just north of Charleston. Mepkin Abbey is located on the banks of the Cooper River, on the site of the historic Mepkin Plantation, a rice plantation that dates back to the 1700s. In 1949, a group from the monks of Gethsemani in Kentucky traveled south to found Mepkin Abbey, and today a community of Roman Catholic monks lives, prays, and works on the property. 


As my sister and I wandered through the gardens and, later, participated in a guided tour led by Father Guerric, I was struck by the peace, quietness, and reverence that suffuse the grounds. The monks lead a simple, structured life and are dedicated to purposeful prayer and scriptural study. Their day begins at 3 a.m., when they rise for the first prayers of the day, and they retire at 8 p.m. Daily labor is an important part of abbey life, and the monks grow and harvest oyster mushrooms to help support the community, and also cultivate and maintain their beautiful grounds. It is a peaceful, disciplined lifestyle that is fostered by prayer, service, and community. 


Just one of the many beautiful live oaks on the property.
 
As a life-long Presbyterian, I have always been intrigued by the traditions and tenets of Catholicism, and I enjoyed learning more during my time at the abbey. I have a deep respect for those who have been called to service in abbeys, monasteries, and mission houses all over the world, regardless of their religious affiliation. My youngest sister Laura and her husband Felipe are (protestant) missionaries serving in Brazil, and in many ways live a lifestyle similar to the inhabitants of Mepkin Abbey—their days are purposeful, prayerful, and dedicated to serving those in the slums of Belo Horizonte where they live. On visits to Brazil, my family and I have seen the challenges and joys of their daily lives, and I am always amazed at what they are able to accomplish. (For a fascinating look into Laura and Felipe’s work in Belo Horizonte, visit their blog at http://thematiasfamily.blogspot.com/.) 

Driving home from Charleston on Monday, I was still filled with the peace and purposeful atmosphere of Mepkin Abbey. I intend to hold tight to this peace, and infuse it somehow into my hurried, crazy (but happy) life—but I know that this will require some effort on my part. As a writer, I am learning to devote sections of my day ONLY to writing, despite the other duties that are constantly calling me away (like the basket of folded laundry waiting to be put away right now!). And I have intentionally taken on volunteer and church duties that genuinely bring me joy as I “work,” so maybe I am on the right track. But I know that I can do better, and intentionally structure my day and my time so that I am fully present and focused while writing (or whatever task I am doing), and not distracted by the many other duties waiting for my attention. My visit to Mepkin Abbey has reminded me that you don’t necessarily have to live in an abbey or mission house to live purposefully; I am thankful for this reminder, and so blessed to have visited such a beautiful, peaceful place!

One of the many statues on the property.

Mepkin Abbey has an online store with many wonderful items for purchase, including their dried oyster mushrooms and many jams and honeys produced on their grounds. The abbey also has Guest Houses available for spiritual retreats. For more information about Mepkin Abbey, visit: http://mepkinabbey.org/wordpress/.

6 comments:

  1. What an oasis of calm. Thank you for this.

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  2. "Be Here Now".....it's a tough thing to do in our busy, always-connected world! I have to remind myself from time to time to do just what you describe -- be fully present and focused on whatever the task before me is. The Abbey sounds just wonderful!

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    1. Thank you, Jennifer. It is tough to slow down and focus, but that is usually when I get the most accomplished! I just need to remember this...
      = )

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  3. Becky, what a beautiful post and just what I needed today as I took a minute break from rushing around. I will have to see if we can work a trip into the Abbey the next time we are in the Charleston area, maybe even this August! I hope you are finding peace today. I know I am always on the hunt for it! Diane

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    1. Diane, you would love Mepkin Abbey! I hope you are able to visit!

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