Monastery Pursues Stability in a Time of Social Distancing

By Charles Hoffacker

For more than a century, Holy Cross Monastery, located on the banks of the Hudson River, has been one of the Episcopal Church’s leading centers for pilgrimage, hospitality, and prayer.  This monastic community in West Park, New York welcomes many guests during the typical week.  Because of the coronavirus pandemic, however, the Guesthouse is closed until further notice.  Since hospitality is a major revenue stream for the monks, they have experienced a drastic decline in income, as have many people throughout the world.

Daily worship continues without interruption, as do communal meals and periods of silence.  The monks count themselves fortunate to have a large and beautiful property to roam where signs of spring are abundant.

Social distancing is easy to practice because so much space is available.  Social distancing is observed with staff members who spend reduced hours on site, and with workmen constructing an elevator shaft in the main Guest House.

Through remote technologies, the community’s ministries engage people in many places.  Some of the daily offices are available on Facebook Live.  A recent Zoom retreat on contemporary ecology was the first of a projected series of retreats in this format.  Spiritual direction sessions normally held in person have taken place on Zoom, using a mobile phone.  According to Br. Bernard, the prior, this requires “a special kind of focus and attention on that small screen.”

The fourteen monks at Holy Cross Monastery also continue to stay in personal communication with numerous associates and friends by phone, email, and letters, offering encouragement and support during these especially challenging times.

OHC is not an enclosed order, but like many other people, they now find themselves staying home.  The very few trips taken outside have been for essential errands.  Their Benedictine vow of stability helps them interpret this experience.  Stability means simply that the monk remains in the monastery, flourishing where he has been planted.  The same loyalty can be practiced by anyone as, for example, they remain committed to their family or their planet.

The relative security of Holy Cross Monastery does not lead the monks to forget how the world has changed drastically in recent months.  New York City, one of the centers of the global pandemic, is a short distance away, and the community has many ties with the metropolis.  Neither the agony of the cross nor the hope of the resurrection as they appear in our time are far from the minds and hearts of these monks as they live and pray and minister.


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