If you really need some time alone to renew your spirit for the New Year, take a trip to Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina for a retreat. Located in Moncks Corner on the Cooper River just north of Charleston, Mepkin Abbey is home to a community of Roman Catholic Trappist monks.
Mepkin Abbey provides guest quarters for visitors, either singles or married couples, who wish to spend several nights to rejuvenate the spirit. “Retreatants” may stay from Monday afternoon to Friday morning or from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. Week-long retreats run from Monday to Monday or Friday to Friday.
Expect a simple life if you visit Mepkin Abbey-rooms include a bed, linens, towels, soap, desk and reading chair. Retreatants take their meals together, eating a vegetarian diet and observing silence while dining, as the monks do. During the noon meal, a monk reads aloud for all to hear.
Although it’s not required, retreatants may attend prayer services and will receive assistance from monks regarding the order of prayer. The monks rise at 3 am to attend Vigils, which begin at 3:20 and last until 4. By 8:30 am, when the Grand Silence ends, the monks will have meditated, attended Lauds, had breakfast, attended Eucharist and Terce.
The rest of the day is filled with work, meals, Sext, Vespers and Compline before retiring at 8 pm, when the Grand Silence begins. Other benefits for retreatants include access to the Clare Boothe Luce Library at certain times, and the opportunity to request sacramental reconciliation, or Confession.
If you can’t stay overnight, a day trip to Mepkin Abbey, which covers 3200 acres and has plentiful wildlife, will also refresh the spirits. Whether you visit the Nancy Bryan Luce Gardens at your leisure or take a guided tour of the church, you’ll be impressed by the peaceful surroundings.
The monks support themselves by growing mushrooms, which are sold in some Piggly Wiggly grocery stores and Newton Farms store; their White Oyster mushrooms can also be found in some Charleston restaurants. The Mepkin Abbey website even provides mushroom recipes to try, such as Oyster Mushroom Quiche and Pork with Oyster Mushrooms.
If you’re interested in retreating to Mepkin Abbey for a visit or just dropping in for the day, it’s all free of charge. Donations are accepted though, and reservations must be made for overnight visits.
1098 Mepkin Abbey Road
Moncks Corner, SC 29461