Thanksgiving at Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey

Gregory is a member of my Sabbath School class.  During his lifetime he has had varied experiences, including living for several years at the Benedictine monastery in Pecos, NM.  Gregory invited us to join him for the Thanksgiving dinner at the monastery.  The invitation was appreciated as Abigail was flying in from Andrews University on Tuesday night, and returning Sunday morning.  Driving to Texas for the large family gathering would have been trying to cram too much travel into too short a time.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey is located along the Pecos River.

We decided to take the scenic route to Pecos, first going south to I-25, then east to Moriarty, and taking NM 41 north.  We were hoping to see some wildlife on the scenic two-lane road.  This decision was taken despite the fact that it had snowed the night before.  Temperatures had dropped below freezing, but the ground was not frozen, resulting in snow melting and forming patches of ice.  The passengers did not seem to notice, but as the driver I could tell when we lost traction.  Blaze has a traction control system, and its lights were coming on, but it does not do a lot of good on ice.  Lots of nervous energy was expended on the drive up.

A large tapestry of St. Benedict dominates the wall of a ditting area in the main building.

We planned a full day at the monastery: Mass at 9:30, hors d’ouvres at 1:00, dinner at 1:30, and Vespers at 5:00.  Not coming from a Catholic tradition, I was not sure what to expect, but I expected it to be meaningful in any case.  I had visions of a choir of monks performing Gregorian chants during the services.  When I mentioned this to Brother Bernard, he responded, “Pray that it may be so!”

The monastary campus was originally a dude ranch. It was purchased by the Trappists and is now operated by the Benedictines. The "Jericho" building has housed a greenhouse, honey processing facility, candle making, rock polishing and other crafts.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey houses a small community today, perhaps a dozen residents including two nuns and a couple priests in addition to the Brothers.  In times past the community was much larger, and according to Gregory they started daughter houses in Tucson and Hawaii.  Those houses are thriving, but most of the residents in Pecos are elderly.  Brother Bernard is one of the younger monks, and he is moving to Italy shortly.

Brother Coleman runs the bee operation for the monastary. The brothers operate hives across the Pecos area. Today the pollination that bees provide for crops is their most important function. Honey sales are a relatively small part of operating beehives. Here Gregory is demonstrating how to remove honeycomb.

Brother Victor is an expert with plants and was in charge of the greenhouse, but he has moved away.  Brother Coleman is the beekeeper.  Gregory was his assistant during his stay at the monastery.  Brother Todd is the cook.

Along the river are located the Stations of the Cross.

I was speaking with Brother Bernard after dinner, telling him about my trip to Poland in 1985.  In the years before Warsaw became the capital, Piotrkow was a royal city (the summer capital, I think, with the capital being at Krakow).  There is a church in Piotrkow dedicated to Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, killed on Henry II’s orders in 1170.  I was remarking on the communications in medieval Europe, that a church in Poland, not close to England, should be dedicated to Thomas Becket.  Brother Bernard immediately jumped in with the real reason that a church building in a royal city was dedicated to the memory of a saint martyred on orders of a king: it was a political statement by the Church on the independence of the Church from the State.

Logs and benches are arranged in an outdoor ampitheater. The area is located under cliffs and next to the Pecos River. During Gregory's stay at the monastary the area was used for spiritual gatherings by areas youth. Gregory would help illustrate the the Biblical story of Elijah at Mount Carmel by hurling burning rolls of toilet paper from the cliff, lighting a bonfire in the ampitheater.

A large boulder makes a convenient podium for the speaker at outdoor gatherings.

Father Simeon celebrated the Mass.  He is newly arrived from Poland and mentioned he had traveled through 40 countries so far.  His Slavic accent reminded me of my grandfather.  Speaking to him later, I found Father Simeon to be a man of few words.

Works of art are found throughout the monastery grounds. This wood sculpture, located along a path beside the Pecos River, depicts Rachel weeping for her children, a reference to the Biblical story of King Herod slaying all the young children in Bethlehem after Jesus' birth.

During his stay at the monastery, Gregory has worked with local youth.  They had campfires under the cliffs next to the Pecos River.  Gregory took us on a walk about the grounds, showing the areas where they had held these outdoor gatherings.

Gregory is pointing to the spot where he baptized his son in the Pecos River.

Thanksgiving dinner was very traditional: turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes.  There appeared to be an equal number of guests as residents in attendance.  Brother John read Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation before everyone filled their plates.  During the meal Christina performed a contemporary dance to the Moonlight Sonata.  I am not clear as to Christina’s relationship to the community, although it appears she has been staying there for a while.

the Pecos River runs through the monastery grounds. The brothers have put in this dam to create a pond where they can fish.

During my conversation with Brother Bernard he popped a question, “Christian or Jew?”  Evidently Gregory has been bringing a number of Jews to the monastery.

“Christian, but Protestant”, I replied.

“Don’t tell me … you’re Baptist?”  “No”

“Episcopalian?”  “No”

“Pentecostal?”  “No, I’m Seventh-day Adventist”

Like most items at the monastery, this bridge over the Pecos was donated. It is raised high because during the spring runoff, the river carries a lot of debris. If lodged against the bridge, the debris would create enough water pressure to push the bidge off its foundations.

At which Brother Bernard launched into a joke.  I’ll repeat it here because I thought it was funny.

A man purchased a new RV, and needed to drive it through New York City.  He approached an Irish policeman for advice.

“I need to drive my new RV through New York City.  When would be the best time.  I don’t want to get a scratch on it.”

“Well”, the cop replied, “I think early Sunday morning would be best.  The Jews are on the golf course, the Catholics are at Mass, and the Protestants are not up yet.”

The gentleman was happily driving his new RV through the nearly deserted streets of New York early Sunday morning, when bang! he was rear-ended.  It was a Seventh-day Adventist late for work.

Brother John read Abraham Lincoln's proclamation of Thanksgiving Day before the meal.

Later in the afternoon Gregory and I took a drive up the canyon to the campground, which was closed for the winter.  With about a half inch of snow on the ground at the higher elevation, we saw large tracks that could have been those of a mountain lion.  Also tracks of elk.  The road was icy which made for slow travel time and caused us to miss Vespers.  The adventure ended with a drive after dark on I-25 past Santa Fe back to Corrales.

Adventure Map

Thanksgiving at Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey at EveryTrail
EveryTrail – Find the best Hiking in New Mexico