Correspondence

Letter From a Monastery: Engulfed in Solitude

“There is a new loneliness in the modern world . . . the solitude of speed.”

—Stephen Vizinczey

Br. Anthony Weber is a Trappist monk at the Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, New York, near Geneseo, where I serve as the Catholic Campus Minister at a SUNY liberal-arts college.  He was the monk dispatched to our Newman Community one evening about three years ago, after I put in a written request to the abbot to have somebody come and talk with some students about the monastic discipline of sacred reading, Lectio Divina.

Before that evening, I was told by some townspeople that Brother Anthony’s visit to the school was something of a rarity, as the monks seldom leave the abbey.  (Trappists, being a reform of a reform of Benedictine monasticism, are what you might call “the strict ones.”)  And Brother Anthony confirmed this upon his arrival, telling the students that, yes, seldom if ever do the monks get in a car and scoot out somewhere—the two annual exceptions being trips for blood donation and, of course, to the ballot box on Election Day.  (It has occurred to me that the second of these two excursions, and the freedom associated with it, might explain his disagreement with Dorothy Day, who visited the abbey in 1967, on the duty and utility, or lack thereof, of voting.) ...

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