Life is Worth Living

Travelogue: Part 1, Benedictines of Mary in Missouri

I thought it couldn’t be done. I thought it was impossible, not to mention impractical, unimaginable, and absurd.

But we did it. We drove hours upon hours with nine children into four different states just to visit two traditional religious orders. And it was well worth it.

Let me break it down for you.

Last Monday morning around 7:30am, I slammed the cooler lid shut, grabbed my coffee mug, and strode out to the van with a troop of children carrying various bags and things behind me. My husband, wearing his special clip-on sunglasses, met us in front of the van and handed out printed maps of our itinerary to each child as they scrambled in. These maps were intended to let the children know exactly where we were at all times and so to avoid the irritating question of, “Are we there yet?”

And then we were off across the beautiful state of Minnesota, which ran into Iowa, and finally Missouri, where we made our first stop at the Benedictines of Mary, a traditional order of nuns living on a few acres near the town of Gower. (Click HERE for a video done 4 years ago. Wow, just wow.)

The Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus, near Gower

Now why did we trek across the country to visit these nuns? Because we wanted our girls to see and experience fully habited nuns following the Traditional Rite, which means they celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass according to the 1962 missal.

Inside the church, facing the west. (Remember the altar faces the east.) The nave is filled with the sisters’ choir stalls, where they pray the Divine Office and Holy Mass.

When we arrived at the Abbey, we prayed the liturgical hour of None, which was sung by the sisters, and the rosary–these being open to the public.

This is the high altar with a canopy, facing the east, the Rising Son. Again, the choir stalls flank the body of the nave.

Close-up of the choir stalls, which is occupied by 35 sisters, with room to grow. (And their order is growing! So many young faces!)

The high altar with communion rails surrounding three sides.

Perhaps some of you may remember the Benedictines of Mary as the nuns with the chant CDs? They’re available on iTunes, if you’re interested, and they’re fabulous.

Anyway, after walking around the grounds a bit, we drove into the nearest town with a hotel and spent the night. (We didn’t know about the sisters’ Guest House, but it was booked anyway.) The next morning we drove out again for the office of Terce and High Mass and a visit with Sister Grace.

The Eldest and her Next Younger Sister and I were all privileged to visit with Sister Grace in the parlor. This was a unique experience for us, as it doesn’t happen too often that one has a chance to ask any question one wants to of a nun.

And Sister Grace was all graciousness and smiles. She came from a poor family in Kansas and has a brother at Clear Creek Monastery, which was fun information for us, as that was our next destination. Sister told us her vocation story and the history of their foundation. She mentioned with a sparkle in her eye the “wicked cold” prowling about the monastery and their poor, sick cow, Pia. We promised to pray for them and the sick cow, and then the monastery bells began to ring for the next hour. Time was up!

Truly, if you have teenage daughters and you can make it happen, consider visiting the Benedictines of Mary. They’re beautiful.

In the next blog post, I’ll continue this Travelogue with a few words and pictures of Clear Creek Monastery in Oklahoma.