Quarantine in the Monastery


Photo Credit: cistercian.org

Fr. Raphael: I learned a lot about myself in quarantine. When the abbey went into red alert lock-down, we stopped communal prayer, mass, and meals, giving the abbey an eerie ghost town feel. I tested negative, so I was the designated monk to maintain praying the daily prayers and celebrating mass in the chapel, sort of a “one for all” situation. But even in that solitude—as in any solitude we may experience in life—the opportunity to encounter Our Lord is still there. Often I felt even closer to God during those moments of hermit-like monasticism, though I still missed the community.

Fr. Ambrose: I’ve been through so many stages of thought and attitude regarding the Covid mess. At this point in August when I hear that for many Europeans, like the Hungarians and Italians, the pandemic is largely over, I’m jealous smh. Why can’t it be that way here! But hopefully it soon will be, so I hold onto hope. The struggles of 2020 have forced me to reckon even more with the instability and uncertainty of life. Over the last several months, it has been hard to sacrifice seeing my students in person, exercising my priestly ministry outside of the monastery, and socializing with family and friends. I am really grateful to have felt the comfort of God’s love and the stable love of so many people. Love never fails, and pandemics can’t do a thing about that.

Fr. Augustine: Monk-time during COVID-time…what’s that been like? We still pray together morning, noon, and night, have Mass, Adoration, etc., but with the empty pews staring us down each and every time we gather in the Abbey church, it’s given us daily opportunities to reflect on our lives: the people we serve, the disrupted relationships and work, and ultimately, that stirring of our hearts and our faith by the Holy Spirit that brought us into monastic life in the first place. In other words, a monk in quarantine must consider anew whether he really came primarily to be with God and the brothers, now that so many other layers of our daily life have been put further out of reach.

Fr. Anthony: I believe that as a Cistercian I have a threefold vocation: priest, monk, and teacher. During these past few months, I’ve struggled most with the feeling that I have been unable to fully live out those vocations. As a priest, I haven’t been able to provide the sacraments or preach sermons as frequently; as a monk, there were times when we were unable to pray together or eat together in community, and I haven’t been able to teach in the classroom or be there for the students in my Form the way that I normally am. I’ve felt incomplete—as if something has been missing. I look forward to the day when we’re whole again.