Life is Worth Living

Travelogue: Part 2, Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma

My last post highlighted our visit to the Benedictines of Mary near Gower, Missouri. We drove about seven hours to pray with these traditional nuns, and it was worth it.

Today, I’ll share a few photos and words about the remainder of our trip, which took us to the monks at Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma. While the first part of our trip was for the girls, this second part was clearly designed for the boys.

The drive from Missouri to Oklahoma was a bit shorter from the previous day’s, but after a night of hotel sleeping–the first night is always the worst!–everyone was a bit tired. The Little Girls were especially silly on the drive. Perhaps delirious? For I turned around at one point and saw them giggling with underwear on their heads and rain boots on their feet.

“And how did those rain boots up in the van?” I stupidly asked.

Little Girl Number One laughed, “We put them in, in case it might rain.”

I spent so much time carefully planning what ought and what ought not to be brought along on this trip, so as to avoid unnecessary items and van clutter and…sigh!

In any case, after an interesting drive through the rundown countryside of Oklahoma, we finally arrived–the last hour being the most stimulating, as the road significantly narrowed to about a lane and a half with no painted lines as it bent here and there, going up and down wooded hills and over single lane “bridges” with no rails. Interesting, no? Frightening, a little!

After awhile, we finally arrived arrived at Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey.

The Unfinished Abbey Church

These Benedictine monks are relatively new to Oklahoma, having come from Fontgambault, France, in 1999. Like the sisters in Missouri, they are still in the building process. In fact, the abbey church in the photo above has a temporary roof, as they wait for the second story to be added. The doors, too, aren’t in yet, and the interior is very dark. When we prayed our rosary inside, there were only candles, which while mysterious and beautiful, are not conducive to my camera phone, so I didn’t take any interior photos.*

Here is a postcard plan of what the monastery looks like, or will look like, in a few years. Most of the other buildings are completed, I believe.

Notice the intended second story of the church with the rose window.

Since the main body of the church is unfinished, Masses and certain hours of the Divine Office are prayed in the crypt, which was where we joined the monks that first day.

The following photo shows the other building that the public is allowed into, which houses the bookstore, where the Guest Master reigns quietly answering questions and for all the world, kindness and meekness itself.

The Bookstore is located through the center door, under the arches. One also inquires here for confession.

Now this bookstore was a real treasure. We bought a number of things: Fontanini pieces for our nativity set, postcards, books, an icon of St. Joseph, biscotti, and gouda cheese, which was made by the monks from their herd of milk cows.

Did I mention that they have about 55 monks, 20 of them priests and the rest brothers? One can see monks everywhere, doing all kinds of things–driving beat-up trucks and tractors, stocking bookshelves, walking and praying, welding old machinery, feeding cows or sheep, and weeding in their massive gardens.

Speaking of gardens, if any layman wants to put in a few hours of backbreaking work with the monks, he can. (Women and girls may not, however, as they are only allowed in the public places.). For example, my husband and sons volunteered to help the monks weed their beans. They began by praying the hour of None in the crypt and then they hiked down the hill to the gardens with Brother Gardener and pulled endless weeds in the hot, hot sun. And I mean, hot, HOT sun.

Want to guess what the girls and I did? We perused the air conditioned book store.

This was the best picture I could get of the gardens, which begin behind the little shed. If you look closely, you can see my husband and sons walking down to meet Brother Gardener.

So, just where did we stay, when visiting the monastery?

In one of their guest houses, which are meant for families. If a man were to go by himself, however, he may stay in other male-only quarters and have access to other areas of the monastery, but not women and children. One must remember that monks are set apart for God and have chosen to live not “in the world.”

This is the guest house we stayed in, which was very large. In fact, we shared it with two other families visiting from Texas. We had great fun meeting those families.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a bridge shot. Indeed, the Abbey gets its name from Clear Creek, which runs right through their extensive property. My boys in particular loved wading in the creek, especially after weeding on that hot and humid afternoon.

This boy is just waiting for permission to tear his socks and shoes off to get in.

If you need a place of pilgrimage, I’d highly recommend both the Benedictines of Mary and Clear Creek Abbey.

*If you’re wondering why I didn’t snap any photos of the monks themselves, it’s because one has to obtain permission from the superior to do so. It’s too disruptive of their monastic life to be continually photographed. If you’re curious how they look, however, click HERE on their website for some beautiful shots.