I do not believe in coincidences. I’m of the school of thought that says everything is related and happens for a reason. So…short story time.
Years ago I subscribed to the National Review. Each issue there was an advertisement for an orthodox Catholic periodical called New Oxford Review. After almost a year of looking at the ad I decided to subscribe. This was in 1999. I’m still a subscriber.
Within the NOR for that first year or so was an ad for a 15 volume set of books by Dom Gueranger called The Liturgical Year. Gueranger (1805-1875) was a 19th century monk who took decades to compile and write these wonderful books full of theology and history, both of which drew me to them. I scraped together the funds and finally ordered the books from Loreto Press in late 2002. I’m still reading them and treasure them.
Gueranger was a monk at the Abbaye de Solesmes, established in 1010 in France. After periods of thriving and decay, the priory was to be destroyed for lack of funds or a buyer. It had been abandoned and empty when in the wake of the French Revolution religious vows were outlawed by the French constitution. Gueranger gathered together enough funds to rent the property and eventually was able to attract vocations once more within its walls while the Vatican raised Solesmes from the status of priory to abbey, making it the head of a new Benedictine Congregation de France.
If I ever get to France, this is the #1 destination I wish to visit. There is 1000 years of history here. There is the timeless echoes of chant. There is beauty. There is peace. And there is God.
A few years later I became aware of Our Lady of the Annunciation Monastery of Clear Creek in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Established in 1999, it was founded by monks who came from the Abbey of Fontgombault, itself a member of the Congregation of Solesmes. When I received a solicitation from the monks asking for donations in order that they finish building their monastery I learned all that I could about them. Tulsa is only a seven or eight hour drive, and if I cannot make it to France I could surely get to Oklahoma. Because I was able to donate a little to their building fund I am on their mailing list. Each Christmas and Easter, Advent and Lent, I receive a recorded CD of their chanting of the liturgy appropriate for the liturgical year. There is beauty. There is peace. And there is God.
If I ever head south for whatever reason, I’m going to stay for at least one night at Clear Creek. Which brings me to the reason for my little historical walk. I read today that the Clear Creek Monastery has been elevated to the status of an Abbey, just as Solesmes had been over 170 years ago. At a time of great secular influence and declining vocations in other parts of the world, Clear Creek is a testament to the fact that it is still possible in this world for a community centered on prayer, and on God, to thrive.
If not for a subscription to National Review, and my answering an advertisement for some books, I would never know. When I get there I will take pictures and write of my experiences. Experiences of beauty, of peace, and of God.