Monasteries are among the most important places in Oregon.
First, they are the engine rooms of the local church. Whether it’s the grand scholarly hilltop at Mount Angel Abbey, the gently secluded woods of the Carmel of Maria Regina near Eugene, or the cozy holler inhabited by the Trappists, monasteries run by constant prayer. Much of the time, the monks and nuns are praying for us. That selfless communion with God surely sends forth efficacious waves upon us and our endeavors. We can’t explain precisely why, but intercessory prayer makes a difference in our ministry, our family life and in our motivation to love as Jesus loved. And monasteries don’t pray just for Catholics. The whole region benefits.
Second, monasteries are countercultural. In Oregon, it is good to have sanctuaries where the dignity of life is high on the list and the latest Kim Kardashian video does not even make the list. Monks and nuns promise to live simply while many of us are intent on boosting wealth. While we prize freedom of movement, they vow to live in one place for the rest if their lives. Thankfully, most monasteries allow people to come for retreats. That’s a way to re-open ourselves to God’s presence and a way to re-set our priorities, which likely have been knocked askew by our culture.
Last, monasteries are evangelical. They welcome not just Catholics, not just Christians, not even just theists. Anyone can join in the prayer life and perhaps stay overnight. We know local stories in which Christians become Catholic and agnostics become monks. Monasteries, just by being themselves, bring a holy influence to those who visit.
Few other institutions in Oregon do so much good.