Just a short distance away from San Francisco, south, nestled in the hills above Pacific Coast Highway, live the spiritual brothers of Bede Griffith.
They are the monks of New Camaldoli Hermitage, in the Santa Lucia Mountains of Big Sur, California. Although their charism[i] is one of contemplative prayer for peace, they also provide a place for retreats, which is one of the best kept secrets of the California Coast. I mean that tongue-in-cheek as most people do not even know they are there, but somehow over the years over 150,000 people have made retreats at the hermitage. Word gets around. Even when it’s about monks who are silent.
After a series of calamities over the years, including mudslides, total collapse of road up to the hermitage, forest fires, El Niño rains, high winds and continuing seismic activity, the hermitage is in the process of rebuilding several older buildings in need of repair. They have completed work on some new structures which offer those interested in private retreats an unparalleled opportunity to become contemplative, in only for awhile, in paradise.
The views, peaceful ambiance (‘vibes’ for you Californians) nature abounding and quiet make this place ideal for quiet reflection and centering again. The monks pray the Divine Office 3 times a day, as priests and monks do, in their beautiful chapel, and chant. Always the chanting. The following is from thier vespers:
Praise God, sun and moon, praise him shining stars.
Praise God highest heavens and waters above the heavens.
Sing praise with resounding cymbals sing praise with crashing cymbals.
Let everything that lives and breathes praise the Father, the Word, and the Spirit.
So life unbounded, uncontained, ordained the oceans teem with life, the skies above then filled with flight, the world with fish and fowl was rife.
You sweep us away like a dream, like grass which springs up in morning.
In morning it springs up and flowers by evening it withers and fades.
By God’s word the heavens were made, by the breath of his mouth all the stars.
God collects the waves of the ocean and stores up the depths of the sea.
In this embrace we sing our praise, transcendent God who nurtures all;
day’s dawning splendor sends us forth to answer with our lives your call.
– Lauds and Vespers, Camaldolese Monks, OSB
More information at: http://www.contemplation.com/index.php
[i] Calling, gift or power believed to be divinely bestowed