How have the remote pillars of the faith fared during the pandemic of 2020? California is home to a number of monastery abbeys, where monks quietly maintain the continuous flow of daily commune with the divine, all while the world around these bucolic structures dart from one priority to the next. In the monastery, the priority is always God… and His people. Orange County Catholic spoke with two members from these spiritual compounds.  

Fr. Paul Mark Schwan is the abbot of New Clairvaux Abbey, a Trappist-Cistercian monastery on the outskirts of a tiny town called Vina, located about 100 miles north of Sacramento in Tehama County. The population, as of the 2010 census, is 237. And while Tehama County has reported one death from COVID-19, New Clairvaux was subject to the same restrictions that have affected the entire state. 

“We have closed the monastery to the public,” Fr. Paul Mark continued. “Our guest house and bookstore are closed through June 1. The church doors are locked and we are not able to allow the public to participate in the liturgy.” Presently, “no people come to the monastery for spiritual direction/confession,” the abbot said. 

While adhering to health guidelines for the well-being of the monks at New Clairvaux, “the most important thing we do is to pray daily for our world and for a solution to the pandemic,” Fr. Paul Mark said. “Daily at the General Intercessions at Mass we offer a special prayer to God through the Blessed Mother’s intercession.” 

Fr. Ambrose Criste, O. Praem. from St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado remarked, “The fact that none of the faithful can come here to participate in our liturgical life with us or to receive the Sacraments from us has been a tremendous sadness.”  

Fr. Ambrose explained, “We [Norbertines] make a procession around the abbey grounds every day, carrying the relics of the Saints and singing the ancient Roman Litany against the plague, begging God to drive back this threat and to restore the Sacraments to God’s people.”  

“We pray to be open to the lesson to be learned from the pandemic,” Father Paul Mark said. “Good always comes forth out of even evil and sinful events if we but listen to the work of God’s grace through these contradictory events. So we live in hope, and hope is the grace of this Paschal season of celebration. The Good News of Jesus Christ is hope and joy, whether in season or out of season.” 

Full story at OC Catholic.