Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Dream Come True: Pilgrimage to Clear Creek Abbey!

Once upon a time, when I lived in Kansas, I was told about Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey, a community of monks tucked away in rural Oklahoma. Some of my friends went there on a discernment trip. Other friends occasionally traveled there for weekend-long trips. The brother of one of my friends, months after graduating from high school, became a monk there. 

I wanted to visit Clear Creek for years, but in the midst of life, never made the trip. A few weeks ago, while looking over the calendar, I declared that we needed to make a pilgrimage to this place. If my husband and I could drive 2 1/2 hours to visit family in Kansas, if my husband could drive several hours to a Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament in Texas, and if we could plan a cross-country trip to visit my husband's family on the West Coast, then we could certainly drive three hours to visit Clear Creek Abbey! We just had to schedule it and make it happen. And about a week ago or so, my husband suggested that we visit on October 22, the Feast of St. John Paul II (quite appropriate, since JPII loved hiking outside, and we would spend time hiking at Clear Creek). So, it was that on Saturday morning at 5:10 a.m., I sprung out of bed, excited to see what the day would bring. 

The drive out to Hulbert was uneventful and peaceful. We prayed, we talked, and I even took a short power nap. Peter peacefully slept until we were just a few miles away from the abbey-and then he happily talked to himself as we bumped along the windy, rocky dirt roads. After travelling for two hours and forty-five minutes, we pulled into the parking lot. I stepped outside and breathed in the glorious, refreshing peace.

We were not supposed to take pictures
during the liturgy,
so here's a simple diagram I put together
so you can see how it was set up.
Soon, we entered the crypt of the church for Mass. The Benedictine monks at Clear Creek Abbey celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Liturgy (commonly known as the Latin Mass). I love this form of the Mass, and it had been just over a year since I last one. so I was extremely excited! Mass is always a beautiful sacrifice and prayer to God, and this High Mass was amazing. Just moments before Terce (part of the Liturgy of the Hours, which is praying with the psalms), the monks came flooding into the crypt in their dramatic black habits. Chanting in Latin, occasionally bowing profoundly from the waist, they prayed as we prepared ourselves for Mass. And then Mass began. It was so peaceful, so beautiful, so gentle and quiet. I was very thankful that Peter (who had never attended Mass in the Extraordinary Form) happily nursed and seemed to be snoozing as the Mass continued. However, at the Consecration-when the offerings of bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ-Peter popped his eyes open! I thought it was really neat. It may have been a coincidence, or he could have had an inkling that a monumental event was taking place. We'll never know, but it was pretty cool. When Mass ended, we left the crypt so we could peruse the Gatehouse (the gift shop) and eat lunch (we hadn't eaten since before we left home, so we were hungry!). 

In the Gatehouse, we bought some cheese (the abbey is self-sustaining, and the monks make their own delicious cheeses) and a Medal of St. Benedict that is the size of the palm of my hand. The monk in the Gatehouse was very welcoming, and blessed our medal with the special Latin blessing. We chatted with some fellow visitors (one from Canada, two from Texas) and then had a picnic of cheese and baguettes on the grass outside. We joined the monks as they prayed Sext (which was pretty nifty because all the monks were there-not all of them had been at High Mass). Then, we hiked around the grounds. We found pretty rocks, an epic bridge, some animals, and more people visiting the abbey (a family from Texas and a man from Australia!). The abbey grounds were so tranquil and perfect for walking, praying, and spending time together. It would also be the perfect place to catch up on spiritual reading. 
I was obsessed with these sheep (and the ram).

This bridge swung and bounced as we walked across,
which made breastfeeding Peter while he was in the
carrier that much more exciting :) 
 At three o'clock, with hearts full of joy and peace, we got into our car and began driving back to Oklahoma City. 
Instead of a dog tag, this dog
(who we met as we were piling in our car)
was wearing a
Medal of St. Benedict.
And, while I thought our trip couldn't get any more awesome, it did: When we drove through Tulsa, my husband stopped at a Quick Trip, and I could fulfill all of my frozen cappuccino cravings . (Oklahoma City, sadly, does not have any QTs) 
The festive flags adorning the store basically described
my mood as we drove up. It was fabulous. 
All in all, our pilgrimage was epic, and such a good retreat to pray and have fellowship as a family. I highly recommend Clear Creek Abbey as a great pilgrimage for singles, married couples, or families! 

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