Saturday, January 12

Article from the Tulsa World

As seen of front page of Spirit Daily
Monks in Oklahoma are creating a cloistered compound built to last 1,000 years.

Monks at Our Lady of Clear Creek Monastery near Hulbert take an afternoon walk. In the background is their recently completed residence building, just behind the foundation and first level of what will be the church. The building is the fulfillment of a 35-year-old dream for the Rev. Phillip Anderson, leader of the community. Taken from :

HULBERT -- A vision born 35 years ago on the campus of the University of Kansas and nurtured in a monastery in France moved closer to reality this week, as monks at Our Lady of Clear Creek Monastery moved into their new residence building. The building is the first part of a monastic complex that will include an 80-by-180-foot church with a 110-foot bell tower. "This is a dream come true," said the Rev. Phillip Anderson, the prior, or leader, of the Benedictine community living at the monastery. "All of a sudden, after all these years, it's happening," he said. To a visitor driving the gravel roads of rural Oklahoma east of Lake Fort Gibson, the new monastery emerges suddenly from the landscape, tall and imposing. The idea of establishing in the United States a contemplative community, where monks would live a cloistered life in a monastery, was inspired in the early 1970s among a group of KU students by a Catholic professor. Most Catholic monasteries in this country are devoted to service, operating schools
and other institutions, Anderson said. "We wanted to build a community like the ancient monasteries, a place devoted to the contemplative life and prayer." During the 1970s, a number of the KU students went to France to experience monastic life. Some stayed. Others left after a few years and later married. Anderson was among those who stayed, living for 24 years at the Benedictine Abbey of Notre Dame de Fontgombault, originally founded in 1091 in the province of Berry, France. In 1999, the dream of building a monastic community in the U.S. took root. Anderson, by then a Catholic priest, led a group of monks who returned to this country to establish a community under the authority of the Abbey of Notre Dame de Fontgombault. With the blessing of Bishop Edward J. Slattery of the Diocese of Tulsa, the community purchased more than 1,000 acres in a picturesque valley cut by the waters of Clear Creek. The property had a large rustic house, which became their home, and they built other modest structures. But their dream was to build a European-style monastery, constructed to last 1,000 years. The monastery is being built as Romanesque architecture, in the style of its parent Fontgombault monastery. On Jan. 2, some nine years after arriving in Oklahoma, the monks began moving into the new residence building, the first part of the compound to be completed. Adjacent to that building is the foundation and lower level of what will be the church. The four-story residence building is divided into two sides. The first, which will face a garden courtyard, contains 36 cells, or rooms, for the monks, the members of the monastic community. All but six rooms are filled. The courtyard and monks' rooms are part of the cloistered area, not open to the public, as part of the monks' discipline in separation from the world, and silence. "This is to create an atmosphere conducive to prayer and communion with Christ," Anderson said. The other side of the residence building has rooms for eight male guests, each with its own full bathroom. The rooms are similar to the monks' rooms but less spartan, Anderson said, and the area will have its own courtyard. Hospitality is a hallmark of the Benedictine Order, providing a place where visitors can find peace and quiet, and a sense of orientation, sanity and spiritual light, Anderson said. The lower level has kitchen and dining areas, and other meeting rooms. The original building where the monks lived will be converted into guest housing for couples and families, Anderson said. The building will be dedicated on April 12. The Benedictine way of life includes strict disciplines of prayer, study and work. The monks tend sheep, gardens and orchards on the property. They are building wood furniture for the new monastery.

Article by Bill Sherman

Tuesday, January 8

The Low Mass Experience

Photo Credit to Br. Jerome. See More Photos

Low mass is my favorite part of the day and now that masses are being said in the crypt of the monastery the whole "low mass experience" seems to have drifted to a time in earlier centuries. Last week was the beginning of our new morning routine and I want to share a little piece of this new joy with you.

On a typical Clear Creek morning - 6:10am Beep! Beep! I roll out of bed and quickly dress and prepare for mass with just enough time to stumble out into cold darkness toward the car before it is time to go. After saying the driving prayer with the other members of my family we often wonder aloud if we will be on time since it can be hard to remember what time mass begins, since it changes daily. Everyone in Clear Creek seems to be awake before sunrise - neighbors on their way to work, the monastery construction workers in their trucks, and all the people who attend low mass daily are out on the roads. Once through the monastery entrance we now must suppress the automatic-pilot to stay left where the road forks and instead follow the arrow which points to the right toward the “new monastery”. The dirt road winds around the edge of the pasture and then dips down a steep hill at the bottom of which is the beautiful bridge. Driving up over the last hill the new monastery comes into view - The multitude of lit windows of the residence building gives the impression of a large castle. The parking lot is mostly dirt and hopefully I remembered to bring a flash-light to light a path between the puddles and large rocks on the way to the crypt. The crypt is solid concrete and the walls are a few feet deep. It is very cold – like a refrigerator. If the monks are still finishing Prime (one of the liturgy of the hours) I wait with the other women in the narthex of the crypt for them to finish. As the monks file out of their stalls after Prime and go about preparations for low mass, the faithful find their chosen positions around the church. There are many options when entering the church – seven side chapels or the center pews facing the high altar. I always choose a side chapel since I love to be as close as possible to the action. There are chairs stacked against the walls and I grab one and carry it to where I wish to be. At low mass everything is said very quietly and even being as close as I am (a few feet from the priest) not all can be heard. The priest and his server whisper back and forth the prayers of the mass while I follow along in the missal. The picture above is from my first low mass in the crypt (I am on the far right with my brother and sister). Though the concrete is very cold on the knees (since we kneel during most of the mass) the whole experience is so consuming and brings about such a sense of the sacred that distraction (even cold knees) is not as bothersome as one would think. Communion is even more beautiful to the senses now for I need only stay kneeling in my place when Jesus is brought to me and descends from the hands of the priest who seems so tall above me. The quiet and peace of low mass seems to envelope the whole church. It is not the silence associated with loneliness for the church seems alive with almost 30 monks and another 30 or so lay faithful – but I would say it is rather the restful comfort of being in the midst of so much holiness, peace and silence. Though it can be confusing for visitors, it is an experience worth the effort. I am so grateful to have been in Clear Creek during the monks stay in the temporary chapel but this new change is another exciting step toward the beautiful future of Clear Creek Monastery.

Tuesday, January 1

Monks are moving tomorrow!

The monks are moving into their new residence tomorrow! My dad and brothers are helping along with other members of the local community. There will be alot of back and forth with cars loaded with various things from the lodge to the new residence. From now on all liturgical ceremonies will be held at the crypt. A new chapter is beginning at Clear Creek monastery.