TIME OUT AT THE MONASTERY: VISITING THE BENEDICTINES
There are many reasons why people take time out in a monastery. Whether to search for meaning, to find themselves or simply to find peace and quiet. Admont Abbey welcomes anyone who wants to immerse themselves in Benedictine spirituality and get to know life in a monastery.
A busy summer is coming to an end for Father Subprior Thomas Stellwag-Carion. In addition to many other tasks, the Benedictine monk is responsible for the accommodation of guests, "which should never be lacking in the monastery", as the guest master emphasises. But there is no question of that at the Benedictine monastery in Admont. "The offer to stay overnight in our monastery is well received," says Father Thomas. Although there are more than twenty rooms available to accommodate guests, the monastery's spatial capacity sometimes reaches its limits. Then creativity is called for. Sometimes a group of pilgrims is quickly accommodated in the gymnasium of the monastery grammar school. "We often receive requests at very short notice," says Father Thomas. Instead of cancelling, the host shows flexibility. Because "pilgrims are never turned away at Admont Abbey if it can be done somehow", as Father Thomas emphasises.
After all, St Benedict already stated: "All guests who come should be welcomed like Christ." A rule that was as valid then as it is today.
Find peace and balance
Hospitality is therefore a high priority at Admont Benedictine Abbey. This has always been the case. It is not for nothing that monasteries with their pilgrims' hostels and guest rooms are regarded as the first "inns" in Europe. Then as now, monks and nuns from other monasteries are warmly welcomed alongside pilgrims. This also applies to family members and friends of Admont's Benedictine monks. Those "who want to immerse themselves in the spiritual in a spiritual atmosphere" are also welcome, says the guest master. And there are many of them. More and more people are visiting the monastery to treat themselves to some time out in a place of tranquillity.
"Some are on the verge of burnout. Others want to find peace and quiet to recharge their batteries. And quite a few people come to us because they are going through a crisis," says Father Thomas. To help them cope, the monks offer counselling and spiritual guidance. This also includes retreats. Spiritual exercises designed to help people shed the hectic pace of everyday life and find themselves again. In order to achieve this, several days are spent in silence, in prayer and occasionally in dialogue with the monks.
"We are not a hotel, nor do we want to be one"
Father Thomas often receives applications from large groups. This is because church organisations hold annual meetings, retreats and conferences at Admont Benedictine Abbey. Preparing their stay is always a challenge for the guest master: seminar rooms and lecture halls have to be provided, fridges stocked and snacks organised. He receives support from the staff at the monastery, "who really endeavour to fulfil the guests' every wish with incredible patience and friendliness," says Father Thomas, praising his team.
He usually takes care of welcoming visitors himself. "We are not a hotel and don't want to be one. That's why we don't have a reception desk. Here at the monastery, I am personally there for our guests. I hand them the keys and sometimes even show them around." Guided tours of the herb gardens or the collegiate church are also available on request from time to time.
Benedictine spirituality in everyday life
There are also individual guest rooms in the cloister, the residential wing of Admont's Benedictine monks. "However, these rooms are not available to every guest," says Father Thomas. And who is accommodated here? "Confreres from other monasteries and also oblates," says the guest master. Oblates are not monks, but they have a strong connection to the monastic community and are allowed to take part in monastic life. The prerequisite for this: "Oblates want to live Benedictine spirituality in everyday life. They are guided by Christian values and devote themselves regularly to prayer," explains Father Thomas.
Temporary monastery residency
In addition to the Oblates, guests who take advantage of the "temporary monastery" programme can also move into a room in the cloister. This is aimed at men who are considering joining the order themselves.
"We offer them the opportunity to experience everyday life in the monastery with us, to take part in the choir prayers and to familiarise themselves with our various tasks," says the guest master. However different the reasons for spending a few days with Admont's Benedictines may ultimately be, "it is important to me that all our guests feel at home here," says Father Thomas, who emphasises: "It is really fulfilling to look after people and show them how important it is for us Benedictines to take on social responsibility through our hospitality."