The Enchanted Realm


These falling waters flow from a wild hillside on the grounds of a Monastery in the Catskill Mountains, long ago settled by my Dutch ancestors and made famous by Rip Van Winkle’s twenty-year slumber.    The Monastery of Bethlehem rests upon a mountain plateau, about five miles from the town of Livingston Manor.   I just call it The Enchanted Realm.   It’s almost as hard to find as it is to find your way out, which may not be a bad thing.


If you wish to make a retreat at this Monastery, there are a few things you need to know beforehand.   I advise against going there (1) if you are afraid of dark, (2) if you are afraid of solitude in the dark, and (3) if you are afraid of solitude and wild animal noises in the dark.


The Monastery’s full name is The Monastery of Our Lady in Beatitude, which is part of global family of more than 35 monasteries known as The Family of the Assumption of Mary and of Saint Bruno.  They were founded by a group of seven French men and women who were at the Vatican when Pope Pius XII solemnly defined the dogma of the Assumption of Mary.  They founded a monastic community in honor of Assumption, which has since grown globally.   They consider St. Bruno, the 11th century founder of the Carthusian monks, to be their spiritual father.   Though not strictly Carthusians, they are part of that monastic tradition.  They also take inspiration from the desert monks of the 4th-5th centuries, of which St. Antony of the Desert is the most famous.   


Silence with God.  Prayer of the heart and contemplation, inspired by meditation and spiritual reading, are the key experiences for people who make retreats there.   The Enchanted Realm has eight guest hermitages, atop a cliff overlooking a lake.   Guests may attend the nuns’ Matins (Morning Prayer) and Mass, as well as Vespers and Compline (Evening and Night Prayer).  Their liturgies are often sung in tones that would be more familiar to Christians in the Middle East, Arabia and northeast Africa.   The beauty of their chanted prayers flows nicely into the silence of the wilderness (see Luke 5:16), in which the Monastery is located.  One can image the experience of Elijah, who heard God’s voice in the gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12).  If you ask the nuns, they may tell you the whole monastic experience in the Church is rooted in the Lord’s words to Israel through the prophet Hosea:  "Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her heart” (Hosea 2;14).


If you are up for a retreat in the Enchanted Realm, feel free to touch base with me, and I’ll tell you a few more tales and point you in the right direction.


In Christ and Mary, Fr Edlefsen

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