As a native Kentuckian, I had a very strange early awareness of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Merton’s home for 27 years as a Trappist Monk. Gethsemani is about seventy-five miles west from my childhood home in Lexington. My father, Gayle Denny, was president of Transylvania Printing Company, an office-supply company located in downtown Lexington. The company’s accountant was an Irish Catholic who had a serious drinking problem.
My father would regularly send his accountant to the Abbey of Gethsemani for a “retreat,” which really meant a time for him to sober up and get back on the wagon. After a few days at the Abbey guesthouse, the accountant would return to work in good shape and thank my father profusely for his generous gift of time at the Abbey. He would bring my father gifts from the monks– some cheese, which I loved, and (ironic gift from an alcoholic) the monks’ famous bourbon-laced fruit cake, which I hated. The drunk accountant story was on my mind the first time I stepped foot onto the abbey grounds in 2004.
I guess I expected to see a bunch of alcoholic accountants wandering around, but instead I saw monks and serious-minded fellow Christians seeking respite and transformation. I had signed up for a week-long silent retreat at Gethsemani and was very excited to enter the chapel for the first time. When I sat down alone in the balcony, the sunlight streaming through the stained-glass windows, I felt the tug of the Holy Spirit saying, “Steven, you are in a really really really good place — breathe it in and come close to me.” [The Merton Prayer: An Exercise in Authenticity, pp. 152-154]
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