Over the Holy Triduum this year I went on a retreat at the Abbey of Belmont, North Carolina. Any and all male students at Belmont Abbey College are invited to partake of this wonderful retreat. The retreat was phenomenal in many ways for all of us men, but one of the most fascinating parts of the retreat was simply exploring the monastery.
The monastery at Belmont Abbey is three stories high not including the basement and an attic as well. Women are only allowed on the first floor because the monks live on the second and third floors. The Abbey is filled with numerous pieces of Christian and Catholic Art. Outside of the room I stayed in was a statue of Jesus displaying his Sacred Heart and wounds. This was just one of the many pieces of Catholic statues they had. Some of my favorite Catholic Art pieces were a St. Michael painting, a bronze pieta, and a painting of Jesus with eyes of deep sorrow.
I began to wonder as I toured the monastery, “Why do they have so many Christian statues, paintings, etc.?” One reason is that a lot of the art is donated. But, the more time I spent in the monastery the more I realized a deeper reason. These statues and paintings draw us in. For example, every time I walked by the painting of Jesus with a look of absolute sorrow, I felt a strong draw to it as if it was speaking to me. These statues and paintings call us to reflect on the mysteries of God and his people. Even walking through a single floor of the monastery, one can’t help but look around at all the beautiful symbols.
The retreat in the monastery was probably the best Easter Triduum I have ever had. The retreat was filled with peace, tranquility, prayer, and love. Love from the monks, the others on the retreat, and, more than anyone else, love from God. During the retreat we prayed the Liturgy of the Hours daily, took part in the many Masses and services of the Holy Triduum, and had ample time in peace, silence, and solitary prayer. I personally went on a rosary walk every day around the gorgeous Belmont Abbey College campus and prayed the Lectio Divina in the monastery house chapel. A big part of the retreat, which I didn’t expect, was the artistic portrayals of saints, Christ, and events in the church. These pieces of beauty constantly brought my mind back to God and His splendor. How have Catholic and Christian Art affected your life? Do you have any statues of saints in your home? Why, or why not?