This past weekend, my wife and I visited my son, Nick, at Geneseo College of SUNY. It was parent’s weekend. While there, we explored the surroundings of this small liberal arts college nestled in the rural Genesee River Valley in western New York. Among our side trips was a visit to the Abbey of the Genesee.
The abbey is a community of monks living according to the Rule of St. Benedict who strive to seek God and follow Christ while following a school of brotherly love. The monks dedicate themselves to contemplation while worshipping God in a hidden life within the monastery. To help sustain their lifestyle, the monks bake nine varieties of bread which is sold on the property at their bread store. The bread is appropriately named, “Monk’s Bread.”
I confess (ironic, I am not at confession), I do not follow a traditional religion, although I strive to practice ethical ways and believe in a greater power. The ways of religion intrigue me because I appreciate contemplation. It is one of my favorite ways to spend time. I also appreciate solemness and respect those who worship a greater being. So, I was drawn to the Abbey’s chapel. We (my wife, Elizabeth, and son, Nick) strolled in. We were alone. The tranquil ambiance of the space induced an immediate internal quietude. We sat down and became transfixed. The chapel is a compelling space; a spiritual space.
Here is the western wall of the chapel:
And the eastern wall:
After some time in the chapel, we strolled outside to witness a monk and fellow citizen praying in the burial ground adjacent to the abbey. I was struck by the simplicity of the markers—we really need no more.