Confinement and joy, the secret of the Trappist monks to avoid the pandemic


Time stood still centuries ago in the Navarrese monastery of La Oliva, in northern Spain. Founded in 1,134 by the Cistercian order, it alternated periods of splendor with periods of decline and even abandonment. It suffered wars, invasions and epidemics, but was always reborn from its ashes and at the end of each year, despite the misfortunes, its monks thanked God at the Tedeum mass and asked him, as they did on Thursday, for his protection and blessing. for the new Year.

Reclined forever, given to God and to work, to Pray and work; established as a monastic rule by Saint Benedict, their lives pass to the rhythm of the harvests and the hours marked by an old wall clock. Every day is the same, every day is different. They carry out numerous activities: in the orchard, in its famous vineyards … but there is an act that stands out above all, the sung liturgies:

“The most important act of the community is choral singing, which we have seven times a day … it is the most important thing. All year round. In winter, in summer … it is the most important thing,” insists Father Daniel. “Then there is work, because the order, when it is founded, says to sing and pray, but that the monks earn their living with their work. Manual work, work in the fields …”, he adds.

When the Spanish government declared a general lockdown to deal with the pandemic, many eyes turned to these Trappist monks used to living within the monastery walls. His advice helped many to endure the confinement:

“Make a regular life. Impose a schedule. Get up, go to bed. (Make) Meals at the same hours … work in the spaces that are normally dedicated to work and study. There have been many people who have had to telecommuting … and then doing more family life “, sums up Father Javier, Abbot of the monastery.

New Year’s Day is a day like any other at the La Oliva monastery. The monks have once again put on their prayer robes, taken them off to work and meditate on life and on God. This is what Father Gregorio does, who is over 85 years old and exhibits incredible physical form. His reflections, from the roof of the monastery, apply to the pandemic and the arrival of this new year:

“The end of the year is supposed to be progress. We have to look back, but better ahead, for the future, because normally life is always progress. We are on a path and the path ends when it ends. life … There have always been worse or better stages, but, normally, the past is past and you have to enjoy the present. And the present is supposed to be a happiness, which is a gift that you have received, so I will continue to give thanks … if I am not optimistic, if I am not positive, it is a failure, “says Father Gregorio.

The fourteen monks currently living in the Monastery of La Oliva are within the priority groups of the first phase of the vaccination campaign against COVID-19. On January 20 they will receive the first dose. The second three weeks later. Away from the madding crowd, they accumulate centuries of wisdom behind their backs and, until now, their way of life has allowed them to avoid the pandemic.


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