BENEDICTINE MONASTERY SAINT MICHAEL
We, St. Michael’s Benedictine Priory belongs the Missionary Benedictines of St. Ottilien, are shedding the light of the Gospel at Kumily, Kerala, India from 1990. Our monastery owes its existence to an Indian secular priest, Rev.Fr. Zacharias Kuruppacheril.
We are the first Eastern Oriental community in our congregation. Within this short period, we grew with many vocations. It consists of nine solemn vowed monks, six simple vows, one in novitiate, and two postulants. The community has its new foundation in northern part of Kerala.
Seeing the plight of so many orphans and poor children, we built a home for them namely ‘Don Bosco Bhavan’ with a view to giving them a dignified childhood in 1983. More than 1000 students have settled their lives through us. At present we have 12 inmates. Aiming of the integral and holistic development of the boys, we regularly conduct personality development talks, counselling, camps, arts and sports competitions and picnics.
The community started a retreat center in 1994, the first retreat center in our district, marked by suicides, broken families, divorces and drug addiction. SMRC concentrated on preaching retreats in both Malayalam and Tamil languages, giving counselling and spiritual direction.
We also run an spiritual centre for priests, religious men & women and lay people who desire to have their annual and silent retreat and more space for personal retreats.
Challenges of the Future
Difficulties and Projects
We were under ‘lock down from 23rd March to 3rd May 2020. So, we had to cancel the public retreats and Holy Masses with the people’s participation.
Meeting the other and the Other
Working as a hospitalero looking after pilgrims on the camino Francés is an experience like no other. It can be fascinating, frustrating and fun but I have never known it to be boring. The very idea of meeting up to forty strangers and making each of them feel personally welcome each day, is a daunting challenge, especially when you realise that by 8 o’clock the following morning, they will have left the comfort and safety of the refuge and moved on. Despite this, the hospitalero is privileged to meet some very remarkable people and, perhaps, learn a little of their stories.
During the hospitalero training, one of the key points emphasised is to avoid making judgements or assumptions about people. I have to confess that I have failed in this many times, and misjudged people for all the wrong reasons, such as the clothes they wear. I remember a young pilgrim arriving late one evening wearing flip-flops and questioning whether he was a real pilgrim before eventually admitting him to the refuge at which point I realised he was known to some of the other pilgrims and that, yes, he really did walk in flip-flops!
One afternoon, a tall quiet American arrived and booked in. After the usual routine of showering, washing clothes, and eating, he settled down to read a book and during the evening, after an exchange of smiles, we struck up a conversation. I learnt that he was a doctor, working with HIV victims in Botswana and that he had just finished a three year contract and was taking a break to walk the camino. I asked him what he planned to do afterwards, he hesitated and told me quietly that he had decided to go back for a further three years. What struck me was that, had we not spoken, I would have known nothing of this man and his life dedicated to helping strangers in a foreign land.
It is fascinating to observe the cultural differences of people from so many countries who walk as pilgrims. I can recall one afternoon sitting with a large group of pilgrims who had gathered to relax and talk over a cup of tea., A couple of young Italians offered to cook supper for anyone who’d care to join them. Later on, the kitchen filled with people tucking in to a very large bowl of pasta and a few bottles of wine. The joy of spending time together was clear and there was much laughter and chatter as the pilgrims shared stories and enjoyed each other’s company.
Somehow, encounters with strangers on the camino, can be very intense and can affect us deeply. It’s as if when we lock our own front door and set off from home, we open our inner self to the world around us and start to see things in a fresh and vivid way. It’s almost as if meeting people we don’t know helps us to see ourselves in a new light, which our mundane daily life can make more difficult.
One evening, two men were out walking when they were approached by a third man who started chatting with them. Eventually, they arrived at the inn where they planned to stay and the stranger was about to move on, but since it was getting dark, they persuaded the him to share a meal with them. During the meal, the stranger blessed the bread and wine they were sharing, suddenly the two friends realised who it was, but it was too late for he had already left. “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us?” one of them said and, despite the late hour, they decided to return to Jerusalem to tell their friends of this remarkable event.
It’s fascinating to see that Jesus chose to meet up with his two disciples while they were walking and to share a meal with them even though they hadn’t recognised him. Perhaps, this helps us to understand that the camino can be a way of somehow glimpsing our own divine nature and that sometimes it is reflected in the strangers we meet along the way.
Many returning pilgrims experience the difficulty of keeping this sense of wonder alive under the onslaught of twenty first century daily life and the relentless pressure of the news cycle, the media and instant communications. By seeing each day of our life as a pilgrimage, we can hope to keep this sense of the Other as a part of our existence. We need to listen and watch what is happening all around and to respond readily to the people we meet and the wonders of creation which surround us as if “our hearts are burning within us”. This way, the other and the Other become one.
Almighty God, mercifully look us your children. We give thanks for all Your blessing and gifts. Amidst the crisis of ‘Covid- 19’, illness and sufferings, we are aware that you are with us, we lead our life with the hope that You always safeguard and protect us in our journey of life and to overcome the challenges. Please help and bless us. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thank you for joining us “in Camino,” for being a part of our humble project, for your prayers, for your assistance and for your company.
With your support you will contribute with food bags, sanitary material, water supply, cleaning kits…
See you next week!