Whenever I can (which isn't very often) I try t o escape for a day or two of solitude and reflection. I have tried many places, but I am most at ease at St. Benedict's, a humble little Benedictine monastery in Arcadia, in the outskirts of northern Sydney. There's nothing much to do at St. Ben's, which is just as I like it. I don't think I'm the best guest, because I spend practically all my time in my little room, reading, meditating, praying and sleeping. Mostly the latter. I can sleep for days at a stretch there, waking up only when the monks ring the bell for prayer. I suppose it's an indication of how exhausted I must let myself get.
I've just been there recently, for four wonderful days, and more and more I come to see the time I spend there as a precious gift to myself. The monks are all wonderful men, quiet and gentle and unassuming, allowing me complete freedom to fill my days as I please. Sometimes, in a romantic mood, I can imagine myself living out my days there, rarely leaving the cloister.
The decor is nothing special - suburban Sydney is pretty short on medieval abbeys. But I am content in the late 60s institutional setting, nicely weathered and sustaining just the right amount of decay to make it homely.
It is at St. Benedict's that my interest in Benedictine spirituality has been nurtured, and I am greatly in awe of those good men and women all over the world who are satisfied to live beneath the rule of St. Benedict, that oddly comprehensive little document that some say has helped to shape Western civilization.