Our Lady of the Angels Abbey • Crozet, VA

“Schola Caritatis.” Latin for school of love.

Our Lady of the Angles Abbey in Crozet is the ‘youngest’ of Trappist Abbeys, being built in 1984.  The land was used as a cheese farm, and the sisters of Crozet continue that work to this day. Crozet is tucked away in the hills of Virginia surrounded by gorgeous landscape.

My time in Crozet was brief, as I was unable to schedule a time to stay there, but had a delightful meeting and day trip to the Abbey after my stay at Holy Cross.

My main take-away from Crozet: “love is the great discernment.” The intense simplicity and potency of this statement baffles me. To me, what is the most beautiful about this statement is the fact that in a given situation I may not know what is most loving – but to seek to do/be/say/act in the most loving manner is my futile attempt at discernment.

One situation I have found myself in, on either side of, are times in which I am struggling perhaps with anxiety, depression, sadness, confusion, etc. Along comes a friend who believes the most loving thing is to talk to me, allow me to talk – when in fact many of those times questions do not soothe, kindness does not pacify, words do not settle, and touch does not alleviate. Those are most often times in which I simply need presence, someone to sit with, maybe not say a word, maybe not move a finger, maybe not even look at me. Similarly, I have had this experience on the other side, and I believe it allows the one present to truly experience and be mindful of the one in need. This is where and why love is the great discernment – only listening to love allows one to know which direction to go in a given situation, only listening to love allows one to be mindful of our own and others’ true needs, only listening to love gives us the grace to accept others’ and often our own lack of discernment in loving one another.

“Before we learn how to love, we have to realize how unloving we are.”

“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another. We do not discover the secret of our lives merely by study and calculation in our own isolated meditation The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love. And if this love is unreal, the secret will not be found, the meaning will never reveal itself, the message will never be decoded. At best, we will receive a scrambled and partial message. One that will deceive and confuse us. We will never be fully real until we let ourselves fall in love – either with another human person or with God.” Thomas Merton, Love and Living

(I wonder, what about both? Falling in love with human(s) AND God?)

“My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” Thomas Merton

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