Monday, September 22, 2008

sunday at st. john's

For our Sunday drive, we decided to go up to Collegeville and walk around at St. John's University, a Benedictine school with an attached abbey. I think St. John's is one of the most beautiful, restful places I have ever been — a sanctuary hidden amid prairies, cornfields, forests and lakes; a thin place, even, where the veil between heaven and earth is a little lighter, a little more ethereal than it is everywhere else.

I think part of it is due to the spirit of Benedictine welcome that hangs over the place, from the plaque outside the abbey chapel to the older monk who invited us into the Great Hall and gave us a loaf of bread that the monks make at the monastery.


If you asked me my favorite kind of church architecture, I don't know that my answer would be a 1950s-modern design by a former Bauhaus artist (Marcel Breuer). All I know is that whenever I walk into the abbey chapel, I catch my breath. There is something awesome and amazing about it. I had an opportunity to participate in midday prayer with the monks once when I was up there a few years ago. I'd love to do that again, maybe even come for a weekend retreat. That's hard to do when you have kids, though. Maybe I will just have to reread Kathleen Norris' The Cloister Walk, which is about the year she spent living at St. John's.



We took a walk in the woods, around part of the lake ...



... and finally thought to ask someone to take a family picture.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

The architecture is just gorgeous. When I first glanced at the photo of the stained glass configuration, it didn't occur to me it was modern art deco. It sort of has a traditional essence, even though it's modern.

Ben's looking more and more like you, Em.

- Susanne

Rebecca said...

What a great adventure.

Wordgirl said...

Thank you for reminding me of St. John's -- I went to a Catholic high school here in the cities and many people I knew went there (including my husband, but only for a year) I love to think of it in this contemplative context rather than the one I'm so used to associating with it -- youth and football games and all of that.

Beautiful photos,

Pam

LutherLiz said...

I love St. John's. Chris' little brother went to college there and so I spent some time up there over the years. He also got married in the Abbey which was just amazing. It sounds like a wonderful day!

jennifer V. said...

This is were my 'brother' (cousin) Jimmy goes to school. He would have loved to greet you, as he too is a reader here... BUT he is studying abroad in Chile this semester.

I hope my children one day attend a university of it's stature and beauty.

Fabulous weekend trip!

Rebecca said...

I am lucky enough to say that I attended St. Ben's (the women's school) and spent many weekend enjoying the outdoors at both of the campuses. It's well worth the drive!

Jessica Griffith said...

What a beautiful post. I want to visit now, even though I am not Catholic.

Monkeymama said...

That is a nice family photo. I'm often kicking myself for not thinking to get one of all of us.

Ben is looking like such a little person now! That 5 - 7 month window seems to really be a time of big personality growth. What a cutie!

Sounds like a beautiful way to spend a Sunday. :)

kristine said...

Sounds like a great day.

That family pic is just beautiful!!

amy said...

Wow,what an amazing place... I love those windows. And what a sweet family picture--those boys are getting big quickly!

Christina said...

I agree that the woods and abbey of SJU have a thin place feel! Thanks for posting the beautiful pictures.

Did you know Kathleen Norris is coming to speak in Mpls tomorrow (Wed) pm? I think it's at 7 pm at Majors & Quinn.

MrsSpock said...

I read The Cloister Walk a few years ago- how neat to see the real thing. What a beautiful place.

I love the idea of giving a loaf of bread to a weary traveler.

EasyMac said...

What a great post. Love the family picture. We always get home and say, "We should have asked someone to take a family shot." Glad you got it.

Madwoman of Preserve Path said...

One of my daughters went to the College of St. Benedict, and it, too, is infused with that wonderful Benedictine hospitality. My husband and I loved going to Mass up there when she was in college, and we loved St. John's, too. Architecturally, of course, the abbey church is beautiful. Best of all, the men there are grounded, honest, and simply decent. I've rarely met a Johnnie I didn't like. :)

Julie said...

I love the quote! Oh if we could only live that quote every day of our lives with every human being.

Such sweet photos!

Roxy said...

beautiful.

you have a beautiful family - they boys are so adorable.

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Emilie,
Since I was just there a few months back (first time), I felt it all over again, and enjoyed seeing the structure and surroundings from your eyes. It made me wish my family had been there when I visited. Though I didn't get to partake in prayer with the monks, I did with the sisters at St. Ben's across the way.
Good for you regarding the family photo! :) You look peaceful...

Anonymous said...

One of my very best friends introduced me to St. John's, the lake, and the Abbey. She went to the prep school there - hearing her stories over the years has made me feel as though I'm a part of the extended St. John's family. I felt incredibly welcomed and at peace there (despite my total lack of catholocism). Your post brought back some wonderful memories and also a sense of peace. My best wishes and prayers to you and yours.

Brooke (from ECFE)