Updated: Oct 10, 2019
October 26th, 2018. Monastery of St. Benedict's, West St. Paul, Manitoba.
Taras and I visited St. Benedict's Monastery with the intention of possibly using the facility for group workshops and weekend retreats.
I had no idea that we would be entering such a holy place. The beauty began right at the front door with a beautiful welcoming statue of Christa, a beautiful being with her arms outstretched to welcome all people, just as they are.
We walked to the reception desk and were greeted by a lady named Pat. She took us on a tour of this simple, yet magnificent facility. Before we began the tour, Taras noticed the word Shekinah written on the white board that listed the centre's activities. He asked Pat what that meant and she said it was the name of the two year spiritual director course that the facility offered.
She began the tour by showing us the meeting rooms first. Taras said that the colors of them were very relaxing. We were then taken to see the bedrooms. They were a good size and were very well maintained.
We were taken upstairs to see the silence retreat rooms. I really loved the solitude and peace in these rooms and felt inspired to guide one on one or small group silence retreats when I saw them.
We were then shown the prayer room. It had a very serene energy.
Next we were shown the art room and the library which were also very calming.
We took a look at the eating hall which, at the time was full of teen aged boys there for a one week retreat. The centre had such healing energy even with all of these young guys all over it!
Finally, we were taken into the prayer hall. I was just overcome with the beauty of this incredibly simple chapel. To my left, right in side the door there was a Shakti standing beside me. A Shakti is an earth elemental Goddess. She told me she was imbuing the anointing oils with spiritual energy and welcoming people at the door. She told me that behind the altar there was a Black Madonna. I walked behind the screen and saw a plaster Black Madonna holding baby Jesus. I was stunned to feel all of this powerful feminine energy in a church. I was told that there was a picture of Jesus in one of the confessional booths at the back of the church and found it to be true.
It seemed that the guides of this chapel wanted to show me all of the loving beings housed within it.
The chapel is set up with space down the middle and chairs running in vertical, rather than horizontal rows. As soon as I sat down I realized I was sitting in the sacred womb of the Mother Goddess. I could feel Holy Spirit all around me. It felt like I was being welcomed with unconditional love. It felt like I was receiving a warm hug from the Holy Mother.
Tears began running down my cheeks. The feeling of love and forgiveness was so intense. I am always surprised by how tightly spirit can hold us without physical arms. I couldn't stop the tears. It felt like I was being cleansed of all of my self hatred and shame.
I was told that there was a statue of St. Benedict in the hall way and asked Pat about it, she showed me a statue that was made by somebody who had visited the monastery. It was such a beautifully detailed work of art. It didn't occur to me to ask if I could take pictures. I really regret that now.
I also felt the presence of a virgin upstairs. Pat told me that the place I was talking about was for the nuns and that she would ask Sister Mary about it. The sister confirmed that there was a statue of the virgin upstairs.
The guides in this chapel told me that the nuns held beautiful mass and allowed many people to pray here and that they loved this universal use of the space. They told me that it was maintained with such deep love and reverence and that this brought Spirit here.
When we went home, Taras looked up the word Shekinah. He discovered that it was from the old Kabbalah and was a feminine term used for Holy Spirit. Shekinah is said to have been there at the birth of Moses. She is known as the daughter of God The word is also used for the womb!
Incidentally, the nuns run a two year spiritual director program called Shekinah. Sister Mary who teaches this class mentioned that she was introduced to Shekinah by a rabbi’s wife, who felt that their monastery had her presence.
This was an experience that is beyond words. I feel so blessed to have visited such a spiritually infused place. If you would like to learn more about the monastery, follow the link to their website below.