Guests are encourgaed to be silent during their stay. I found this quite difficult but extremely helpful in the end. It was quite amusing at dinner time on Friday. The monks cook up a big feed every night for themselves and their guests. Silence has to be observed during meal-times. It's like the awkward silence that can occur when you're at a person's house for dinner, except it carried on for the whole meal. I noticed that the monks were looking at me strangely and smiling to eachother. I was feeling a bit uncomfortable and felt like asking what the hell the big joke was.
The next day I was at a friends house wearing the same new jumper I had received for Christmas. It says 'Putta Madre' or something on it which she translated as 'Son of a Bitch'. I'm glad the monks saw the funny side!
I joined the monks for their prayers in the evening and the morning. This involved amazing singing and chanting of the Psalms and lots of incense. I immediatly thought of the things in the Catholic tradition that are missing from the Protestant tradition that I was brought up in (though I don't consider myself either now).
We have focused on a personal relationship and intimacy with God which is true and wonderful but I wonder has familiarity bred contempt in some cases. There was a sense of mystery, awe and fear in the monk's worship service that I feel we may have missed.
By the time Saturday morning came the silence was doing my head in so I found Brother Thierry and we had a great chat. I'll write more about this later.
Ciao Putta Madres