It’s a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.
I’m referring to the Weston Priory, a Benedictine monastery in southern Vermont in the vicinity of Manchester, Londonderry, Peru and, obviously, Weston, southeast of Rutland.
Here’s a nice photo of the pond, where I’ve spent some pleasant hours just sort of sitting there, closing my eyes and shifting into relaxation mode, sometimes opening my eyes to admire the surrounding mountains or watch herons land in the pond, sometimes strolling around the grounds and checking out the brothers’ vegetable garden, their small barnyard and even the community burial ground tucked into a hillside near the woods on the opposite side of the pond.
Beautiful place. And because of my friendship with the late poet Robert Lax, I became an admirer of the writings of the most famous monk of 20th century, Thomas Merton. So I’ll find myself sometimes thinking that living at Weston Priory — living a simple life of contemplation in such a beautiful place — wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
But consider the daily schedule at the place:
|5:00:||Morning Vigil Prayer|
|5:30- 6:00:||Common Sitting Meditation Reflective Reading of Scripture|
|6:00- 7:30:||Personal Prayer, Pick-up Breakfast in Silence|
|8:00:||Personal Study Time|
|9:00-11:55:||Work with Brothers|
|12:15:||Lunch (Main Meal)|
|1:45- 4:30:||Optional Work With Brothers, Personal Time, or Value Discussions|
|5:15:||Evening Prayer, Eucharist|
|6:15:||Supper (Lighter Meal)|
|8:00:||Compline (Night Prayer)|
Then add in the fact that I happen to like interactions with women and actually married a very beautiful one, who was actually with me when I visited Weston Priory.
Throw in the little problem that I think organized religion, or at least the organizers of it, tap into three basic human failings: Ignorance, fear and arrogance.
Those are all very good reasons why I could never become a monk and live at Weston Priory. But here’s the main reason: When I was there a few weeks ago, I encountered one of the brothers. He was walking toward me, lost in thought, his head bowed in contemplation and prayer. I thought I heard music coming from somewhere in the distance, and I commented: “Do you hear that? Is someone playing music?” And he replied: “That’s Brother ____. He’s sitting in the woods playing his recorder.”
I could probably live the life of a sort-of-a[-hermit like my friend Lax, who lived quietly and simply in a little house on the Greek island of Patmos, spending almost all of his time just writing and thinking and silently reveling in the basic beauty of life.
But I know Bob Lax would have laughed just at the thought of Brother ____ spending his afternoon sitting in the woods playing his recorder, probably sitting by a babbling brook and happy little birds were fluttering around and landing on his shoulders and singing along to the blissful brother’s music.
Nice place to visit and I’m sure I’ll visit again. No way I could live there — I’d get to the point where the goddamn recorder music would finally get to me and I’d end up breaking every single one of St. Benedict’s rules.