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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Article on the Benedictine Monks of Clear Creek

Hat tip to Fr. Z at WDTPRS for posting this article from Tulsa World.

A Vision Appearing

Monks in Oklahoma are creating a cloistered compound built to last 1,000 years.

By BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer

HULBERT -- A vision born 35 years ago on the campus of the University of Kansas and nurtured in a monastery in France moved closer to reality this week, as monks at Our Lady of Clear Creek Monastery moved into their new residence building.

The building is the first part of a monastic complex that will include an 80-by-180-foot church with a 110-foot bell tower.

"This is a dream come true," said the Rev. Phillip Anderson, the prior, or leader, of the Benedictine community living at the monastery.

"All of a sudden, after all these years, it's happening," he said.

To a visitor driving the gravel roads of rural Oklahoma east of Lake Fort Gibson, the new monastery emerges suddenly from the landscape, tall and imposing.

The idea of establishing in the United States a contemplative community, where monks would live a cloistered life in a monastery, was inspired in the early 1970s among a group of KU students by a Catholic professor.

Most Catholic monasteries in this country are devoted to service, operating schools and other institutions, Anderson said.

"We wanted to build a community like the ancient monasteries, a place devoted to the contemplative life and prayer."

During the 1970s, a number of the KU students went to France to experience monastic life. Some stayed. Others left after a few years and later married.

Anderson was among those who stayed, living for 24 years at the Benedictine Abbey of Notre Dame de Fontgombault, originally founded in 1091 in the province of Berry, France.

In 1999, the dream of building a monastic community in the U.S. took root. Anderson, by then a Catholic priest, led a group of monks who returned to this country to establish a community under the authority of the Abbey of Notre Dame de Fontgombault.

With the blessing of Bishop Edward J. Slattery of the Diocese of Tulsa, the community purchased more than 1,000 acres in a picturesque valley cut by the waters of Clear Creek. The property had a large rustic house, which became their home, and they built other modest structures.

But their dream was to build a European-style monastery, constructed to last 1,000 years.

The monastery is being built as Romanesque architecture, in the style of its parent Fontgombault monastery.

On Jan. 2, some nine years after arriving in Oklahoma, the monks began moving into the new residence building, the first part of the compound to be completed.

Adjacent to that building is the foundation and lower level of what will be the church.

The four-story residence building is divided into two sides. The first, which will face a garden courtyard, contains 36 cells, or rooms, for the monks, the members of the monastic community. All but six rooms are filled.

The courtyard and monks' rooms are part of the cloistered area, not open to the public, as part of the monks' discipline in separation from the world, and silence.

"This is to create an atmosphere conducive to prayer and communion with Christ," Anderson said.

The other side of the residence building has rooms for eight male guests, each with its own full bathroom. The rooms are similar to the monks' rooms but less spartan, Anderson said, and the area will have its own courtyard.

Hospitality is a hallmark of the Benedictine Order, providing a place where visitors can find peace and quiet, and a sense of orientation, sanity and spiritual light, Anderson said.

The lower level has kitchen and dining areas, and other meeting rooms. The original building where the monks lived will be converted into guest housing for couples and families, Anderson said.

The building will be dedicated on April 12.

The Benedictine way of life includes strict disciplines of prayer, study and work. The monks tend sheep, gardens and orchards on the property. They are building wood furniture for the new monastery.

1 comment:

coley boley said...

wow. It's so weird because I was just talking about this monastery with my mom today because it was brought up in our theology class. Our theology teacher visited Clear Creek Monastery last summer and spent a class telling us about it. It's wonderful to hear they are doing so well!!