Sunday, 3 January 2016

L'Abbaye de Sainte-Marie and a winter retreat

My wife, Jane, and I were privileged to spend some time on a short retreat at L'Abbaye de Sainte-Marie des Deux-Montagnes near Montreal.  The contemplative Sisters follow the Solesmes Benedictine tradition. They sing the daily sevenfold Latin office with Gregorian Chant. Daily Mass is celebrated in either Latin or French. 

A number of people from the community come for the daily Mass and offices making the Abbey a living part of the community. These include both French and English speaking Quebecers. Both linguistic groups have have inhabited the region for generations.
Dom Charles Gilman (Fr. Chip), our gracious host, gave us some background to the Benedictine life in Canada and the foundation of his own community at St. Benoit-du-Lac along with its two sister communities of nuns at Westfield, Vermont and Deux Montagnes. Monks act as chaplains to the enclosed sisters whose focus on prayer is a palpable reality at the abbeys.

At the daily Mass and offices we joined with the sisters in prayer for the unity of the Church, a particular focus of prayer for Dom Charles, their chaplain and a former Episcopalian originally from Washington, D.C.
The Abbey Church of Sainte-Marie

The suite we occupied during the Retreat with Quebec winter outside.

The Guest House

The abbey church joins the sisters' residence and private cloister which is designated as a papal enclosure for the exclusive use of the sisters. 

Looking towards the cloister through the pines.

Extensive grounds surround the abbey which include a pond and gazebo within the monastic enclosure.

Abbey church of Sainte-Marie

Abbey church with guest house to the right.  The much larger residence of the sisters with entrance to the church is not visible beyond the church tower.

Dom Charles with Jane next to the statue of Ste. Anne with BVM at the entrance to the Guest House where the chaplain lives.
Cathedral of St. Jerome, the diocesan cathedral for the Diocese of St. Jerome just west of Montreal.
Some of the sisters are iconographers and their work is for sale at the abbey.  They also do commission work and have just completed a series of beautiful icons for the cathedral in their diocese which were blessed and dedicated in time for Christmas the week before we arrived.  

Fr. Chip took us to see the cathedral and the icons one afternoon.  
Icons of Our Lord, our Lady, St. John the Baptist, St. Peter (left) and St. Paul (right) 

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