In this article I’d like to describe and share this amazing experience which had a huge impact on my life and spirituality. I believe that even people who are not religious might find this at least a bit interesting. What I want to talk about is my visit of the Trappist monastery Nový Dvůr in the Czech Republic. I won’t describe any details about the daily life since you can pretty much read all that on their website.
I have visited this monastery three times so far, each visit lasted a week or so. But how did I even get the idea of visiting this place? I am a Catholic and monastic life was always something mysterious to me. That’s why I have read a book called The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk who describes how he came to the decision to enter the order in this book. He mentioned that there was a monastery where he spent some time as a guest which gave me this idea to try the same. I didn’t even know that monks allow people to stay in some monasteries as guests before. I was really interested in how the monks live and I also wanted to take this opportunity to spend some time meditating, reading the Bible and spiritually growing at this place.
As the others guests I was put up in the guesthouse. The Trappist monks are well known for living in the silence so they have expected the same from the guests. We were eating in silence (well, sometimes we broke this :D), washing the dishes in silence, working with the monks in silence. This whole place has this mysterious and beautiful aura. One could feel the harmony and peace in the air. It was like the outer world doesn’t exist anymore. The monastery is located in the middle of nowhere so the only sounds one can hear around are the birds or working monks. The atmosphere there was so peaceful that all the guests were so nice to each other, trying to be the helpful, to serve the food to the others at the table etc. As one of my fellow guests said: “This is like a small kingdom of heaven.”
Another wonderful shock to me was, when I visited their prayers for the first time. The monks gathered and then...they started to sing some psalms. I’ve had tears in my eyes! The singing was so beautiful. The Gregorian choral got in the deepest parts of my soul and I felt this beautiful and deep prayer that resonated through the church. I’ve heard some chorals before (a huge fan of the group Gregorian who sings modern songs in this ancient style) but this live experience of something, that is supposed to go beyond the music was amazing.
We also went to work with the monks and to my surprise it was a pretty hard work! We went to the forest, clearing the vegetation around some small trees and I was dead at the end of the day. The monks more or less do everything, they have to take care of the forest around, the fields, cows, sheep, garden etc. Every monk has his job and when they don’t work, they study (history, languages, Christian teachings), read some books, pray or practice singing. Their lives are devoted to discipline and improving every day, focusing on everything they do and connecting everything with a prayer and worshiping of God. I have to say that they are extraordinary people whom I value with respect and awe. They can’t even sleep without all that. The first prayers start at 3:15 in the morning. (Yea, I really had to fight myself to get up and go there :D)
I am really looking forward to visiting this place again since I always came back somehow spiritually enriched and felt that I have gained another valuable experience on my spiritual way. I can’t imagine living like this every day for the rest of my life but this silent prayer doesn’t hurt sometimes. When one stops talking, stops thinking and listens and perceives whats around him and inside him instead, one can truly feel the presence of God.
Here is a little bonus. I've made this video after my first visit there: