Perched on a hilltop overlooking the Pacific, Prince of Peace Abbey offered me a quiet midday reprieve from people and busyness. I had spent the previous day in Long Beach, at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.. I’ve never enjoyed church politics or ecclesiastical business. After observing the machinery of the Presbyterian Church for a day, I was looking for a quiet place to reflect and pray. Prince of Peace Abbey welcomed me into God’s quiet circle of grace, a place to read, pray and renew my spirit.

A neighbor to Camp Pendleton, the Prince of Peace Abbey stands as a counter-culture witness to our national defense industry. The driveway meanders up “S” curves, past acres of wrecked cars. The sounds of cars being crushed at the junkyard below can be heard in the arroyo below from the ridge top where I walked and prayed through the fourteen “Stations of the Cross”, a meditation on the crucifixion of Christ. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

Benedict thought it wise for monks to meditate upon death. Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die (RB 4). This kind of spiritual insight doesn’t go over real well on Wall Street or Main Street. The twin worlds of business and leisure groan with the pressure to produce something bigger, better, more exciting. Monks have taught me to learn how to die from those who are living life to the fullest in the face of death.The best time to learn this hard lesson is in the middle of a busy day.

During the midday prayer service known as Day Hour, I marveled at the sunlight beaming through a vast stained glass mosaic window of depicting the glory of Creation. Far out on the horizon, we also could see the glimmering blue of the Pacific Ocean.

After prayer, the Abbot took me on a tour of Prince of Peace Abbey, including some quiet time for meditation in the tropical cloister flower garden. In typical Benedictine fashion, we then gathered as family in the monastic dining room to enjoy lunch together, eaten in silence. Stopping at midday, with both body and soul taking time to rest, we gather our lives together to once again find the gift of shalom, that spiritual restoration and well being which is our heart’s true gift from the Prince of peace.