Church of the Holy Cross at
St. Leo Abbey, Florida, USA
[Click picture to enlarge]
Over 1.5 million people live within a 45-minute drive to St. Leo Abbey. Five of us visited the abbey today to pray vespers with this Catholic Benedictine monk community -- the only one in Florida.
I was by myself and there was the man staying in the guest house — we met and talked with him last Sunday in the abbey bookstore — and there was a family of 3 including a child about 8 years old.
Five visitors is about average -- to pray with the monks during their times of the divine office. It is easy to greet and exchange a couple of words (literally) with every visitor and I try to do that if possible — and other visitors will often smile and speak first to me as well — again, these are not conversations — just a sincere smile and acknowledgment.
I can't remember the last time anyone was not considerate of the stillness that attends the prayers or the obvious desire of all visitors to spend the time in prayer rather than chatting.
Today after the last words of vespers, all of the monks and the visitors bow to the altar and then the monks walk out of the Church of the Holy Cross in silence as they go to dinner. The visitors are standing as the monks exit and we stand still until the last monk has left the church — well, the last monk except the guest master monk who takes care of the microphones, lights, and guests staying for dinner. And there is one other monk who stays -- the monk who plays the organ.
The monk who plays the organ will always, as he did today keep playing while the visitors — now alone in the dimly lit church after the other monks have left — gather their belongings and begin to walk to the big double doors. His gesture of accompanying us with beautiful music as we leave is a perfect example of Benedictine hospitality. I always have the feeling that he is thinking: "this little musical blessing is also for the other 1,499,995."