Trip to Monastery of St. John

posted Jul 9, 2009, 3:25 PM by Edward Mansager   [ updated Jul 9, 2009, 3:53 PM ]

Eight students, three teachers, and one parent from St. John’s Academy made a pilgrimage to the Monastery of St. John of San Francisco in Manton, California from November 5-7, 2007. Although both are dedicated to the same patron saint, the Monastery is affiliated with the Orthodox Church of America (OCA) and has no direct relationship with St. John’s Academy. Nevertheless, Abbot Fr. Jonah and the community of monks in Manton were very hospitable and welcoming to our group, many of whom had never been to a monastery before.

The students and teachers participated in the normal monastic routine during the trip. They attended Matins services (which began at 6:00 a.m.) as well as Liturgy and Vespers, and they shared meals with the monks. During the afternoon of Nov. 6, Fr. Silouhan from the monastery led the group on a three-hour hike through Mount Lassen Volcanic National Park, where the students and some teachers had a snowball fight in the bright, warm sunshine and saw the mysterious boiling pools still steaming and bubbling on the old volcano. Then after dinner, Fr. Silouhan took the group on a night hike under a brilliant starry sky in the dark forest surrounding the monastery.

After Vespers on Nov. 6, Fr. Jonah spoke to the group about the challenges of living an Orthodox life as an American teenager. He reminded them that wheras Christians in general try to avoid the pressures and temptations of the world around us, Orthodox Christians are called to something more: to live the life of Christ, which means respecting and valuing each other, never judging each other, and always forgiving each other. Fr. Jonah did not minimize the difficulties Orthodox young people have in today’s world, but he encouraged them to hold fast to their commitment.

Despite (or maybe because of) the absence of everyday conveniences like television, computers, and even cell phones, there was something powerfully attractive about the way of life at the monastery. If the students were unanimous in one criticism of the trip, it was that it was too short! They found the simplicity of the monastic life (especially the goats and chickens) fascinating , the beautiful English-language services impressive, and the overall atmosphere of quiet gentleness and joy a striking contrast to the noise and speed of “normal” life. They came away with much to think about and are hoping to return sometime soon.

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