Trip 3, to St John of Shanghai, Manton, CA
My third trip, per the original proposal to the Lilly Foundation, was to be to New Camaldoli Catholic Hermitage in Big Sur, California. The thought was that, after time at Lebh Shomea, St John the Baptist in Essex, and on Mt Athos, I would take a week all by myself to synthesize everything I had been through and learned. The more I thought about this, the less I liked the idea.
First, I wasn’t sure I wanted another week at a Catholic institution. The issues were about being in another strange environment — more strange than being in an unknown Orthodox monastery —, one in which I was unfamiliar with the liturgical cycle, and one in which I could not participate fully in the liturgical life. Admittedly, the thought of a week of solitude on the mountainous shoreline of California, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, still has its appeal.
Second, I learned that Fr Meletios Webber, the abbot of St John of Shanghai Monastery, the one which His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, had founded, would be available during the week I was planning on being in California. He has a reputation as a good abbot and spiritual father, and I saw here an opportunity to ask for his counsel and direction. (You can see Fr Meletios’s books here.) Being an Orthodox monastery, I would be comfortable with the liturgical life, could receive Communion, and would know my place in the scheme of things. Besides, if I wanted more solitude while I was there, I could always close my door and I’m sure it would be respected. So, I opted for St John of Shanghai instead of the Camaldolese hermits.
So, this will be the last of my trips away by myself, leaving my family at home. I will have spent 4+ weeks at Catholic and Orthodox monasteries both here and abroad and (God willing) have found good counsel for my heart and some advice on how to be a better spiritual father to those who come to me. I will also have spent nearly 4 weeks at home between trips, too, resting (as much as a man can get with a “honey do” list in his hand).
After my time in Manton, I will not be coming directly home. Instead, I will drive down to the airport in San Francisco and pick up my family. Then, we’ll begin the vacation part of the sabbatical.