“A year and a half ago, I could do anything — run the chain saw, cut up trees, use a backhoe.”
Brother Joseph Swedo was bent forward in his chair, his rugged hands folded delicately in his lap. As a monk at Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monastery in South Carolina, he maintains that Roman Catholic order’s code of prayer, work, seclusion, poverty and chastity. And for the last 73 years — since he joined the order at age 17, answering a call from God, he said — physical labor has been an integral part of his daily routine.
Lately, though, Brother Joseph’s health has taken a turn for the worse, narrowing the scope of his monastic life. He is no longer strong enough, he said, to regularly attend the first or last of Mepkin’s seven daily prayer services — vigils at 3:20 a.m., and compline at 7:35 p.m. Nor can he fully participate during the roughly five hours set aside each day for agricultural work and the upkeep of the monastery’s grounds.
“Right now, it’s a bleak situation,” he said. “We’re all getting old.”
Mepkin Abbey — part of a global network of Trappist monasteries that for nearly 1,000 years have provided their communities with reliable sources of prayer, learning and hospitality — is edging toward a potential crisis.
The World Is Changing. This Trappist Abbey Isn’t. Can It Last? https://t.co/P0f89mXdnV
— Makoto Fujimura (@iamfujimura) March 18, 2018