That is the question I was able to ask several times as I lived this last weekend with monks in a monastery at the Abbey of St. Mary and St. Louis. It might seem strange to meet someone on a plane, keep in touch via letter off and on until 10 years later you ask if you could go across the country to visit them for a while – but in this case, that is exactly what I did.
10 years ago I sat next to a most remarkable man on an airplane traveling from the UK to the US – I was 21 years old and returning from 2 years of being away from home as a Mormon missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Patrick Barry was 80 year old man who had spent most of his life as a Catholic Priest and monk after the Benedictine order. We had a great conversation (very interesting, open, and edifying), the end of which he we mutually agreed to pray for each other and keep in touch.
Since over the last year I had been thinking, talking, and writing a lot about interfaith communication, collaboration and innovation [feel free to join the FaceBook group on this topic], when I was writing my Christmas letter to Patrick, I wondered why on earth I had not ever gone to the monastery to visit this wonderful man and learn more about what his life and work was all about, and asked him if it would be possible and appropriate for me to come visit. He responded warmly, and when the flights were cheap I bought my ticket.
When thinking about visiting a monastery, I had no idea what an enjoyable trip I would end up having… [to be continued…]