Sunday, February 22, 2009

La Trappe d'Oka, 1881-2009.

Last May, I posted some reflections and photos of one of my favorite places, the Cistercian Abbey of Notre-Dame du Lac in Oka, Quebec. As I noted at the time, a combination of reduced numbers and the encroachment of suburban sprawl have led the Trappists at Oka to make the difficult decision to leave behind a historic monastery built in 1916 on grounds occupied by the Cistercian Order since 1881. After several years of careful planning, the twenty-odd monks at Oka are moving this week to the new Abbey of Val Notre-Dame near Saint-Jean-de-Matha, a rural community about forty-five miles northeast of Montreal. As Alan Hustak reports in the Montreal Gazette, the last public Mass in the monastery at Oka took place this morning.

Though the Trappists' departure from Oka has been long anticipated, it's still a bit sad to realize that the move is finally taking place. Nonetheless, I took some consolation in the words of a wise old monk quoted in Hustak's article:
"No one can deny that moving is a heartbreaking experience," said Brother Bénédict Vanier, who has been at the abbey since 1945.

"We are leaving a lot of memories behind in the old place. But we have chosen to follow Christ in solitude, and if he is with us - and I believe He is - it seems to me we will find Him just as easily at Val Notre Dame as at Oka."
I trust that God will be with the Trappists of Oka as they move to their new home, and I pray that they may enjoy many years of grace, peace and tranquility at Val Notre Dame. AMDG.


At 2/23/2009 9:42 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

My husband lived just south of where the new monastery is (on the other side of the river) - so this is an area I know. It's a lovely and peaceful place, even in the depths of winter. My prayers are also with the monks as they settle in...

The photo of the hours is for some reason very moving - it both invites you in, but underscores the silence and isolation.

At 8/08/2009 9:00 PM, Blogger Hugh said...

In 1965 I stayed at La Trappe d"Oka for a retreat. It was a moving experience that helped me on my spiritual journey. By coincidence Thomas Merton had been there only a few months earlier. In 1970 I traveled to India and Thailand & found that Thomas Merton had preceded me to each place. So, in my mind, Cistercian life and Thomas Merton are intertwined experiences.

I am leaving from the coast of Maine to visit my son in Montreal and had made plans to visit La Trappe d'Oka assuming that it was still there and still viable. This is disappointing since it is likely only an empty shell of buildings there now.


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