I was at Holy Cross Abbey all week. It is silent and prayerful, so it’s the best place on earth for me to get writing done. It is also beautiful and there are an abundance of cows in the pastures around the guesthouse. The things it lacks is just as important as the things it has in abundance — no internet, no cooking, no laundry to do, no distractions. The only contact with the outside world is if there’s an emergency. There are prayer services 5 times a day.
From Monday to Friday there were only 5 of us guests. One night a stranger was sitting in the vestibule when I arrived after a prayer service, I think he didn’t know where to go or what to do. He started talking out loud, which was weird. He told me how he was a Catholic from Front Royal and which parish . . . blah blah blah. I said, Do you need a place to stay? Look, nobody cares where you’re from, they’ll just let you stay here. Then I knocked on Brother Vincent’s door.
Over the weekend, the guesthouse filled up. Of 16 people, only 2 of us were women. All the guys looked like they could be from Baltimore, firefighters or retired cops. Probably Irish or Italian. Some of them are very familiar looking, I suppose we have crossed paths here before. I stay here twice a year, but we never say a word. At least 4 of the guys came together, they were smoking cigars all in a group in the parking lot. Another pair of guys came together.
I look around at their faces at our silent meals, and they are all so beautiful. One man has such acne scars on his face, one can only imagine what he endured as a teenager. He carries himself proud, but slightly self-conscious. I want to go up to him and kiss his face, all over.
Another guy, one of the cigar smokers, is the young punk of the group, with a shaved head and T shirts with rock bands. He is beefy, you can tell he works out. Who are these guys, who come to a monastery with their buddies? What world do they come from?
Many of the guys are almost as old as my dad. One codger winked at me after he cut himself a piece of pie. I laughed. I’m glad I have the kind of face you can wink at.
Another night, when the guy next to me brought back a slice of fruitcake he whispered to me, I only eat it for the rum. I laughed then too, and helped myself to a slice. It’s very good fruitcake. Baking and selling it is how the monastery generates income.
There are other things I can say about this place, but not until I am an old woman.
Until then I can only say: Visit sometime. Buy a fruitcake. For the rum.