Where is paradise? One place is Shaw Island, WA where Our Lady of the Rock Monestary is. Eleven women from our Episcopal church went to this Catholic retreat for the week end. This monastery is Benedictine. One of the aspects of the Benedictine Rule is hospitality. They are to welcome visitors as if they were Christ himself. Other aspects of the Order is that they are to sing the offices six times a day. But they pray at services and through day through their work. I went to Friday Vespers, and Sunday Mass.
Rome does not send any money to them and they must make their own way. They do this by raising special breeds of cattle, lamb and llamas, plus their little jars of mustard and tarragon vinegar. They are pretty self sufficient. They have a set of cars and trucks that they use to get back and forth to and from the ferry; also to pile the animals into. The nun’s doctors are either on the mainland or a larger Island. But always they have to take a ferry. One nun told me that they all carry Medivac insurance, because if someone has a heart attack, the helicopter is very close but it costs $10,000.00.
The women have two sets of clothes. The black habit is for the church and their chanting, and being in public, and a denim one is for the work in the garden, kitchen or fields. All the women are well educated, and at least two there have advanced degrees. There are about seven nuns and two novitiates. No one is under 50, and I think one precious nun was in her nineties. She walked by me with her cane and some vegetables in her hand. I think she was less than five feet. She said going to her green house was about all that she could manage. She was an inspiration.
There was a young vagabond man of about 23 who was working at the monastery for a month. For room and board he patched fences, built little buildings for them and likely helped them with the haying. Our group got their herb garden back in shape for the winter. Sunday morning we cleaned our rooms, changed the sheets, left a donation. We went home with peace in our hearts.