Meditations of the Heart

Mar 28 / Andy Kennaly
On the green island of Ireland, in County Limerick, there’s a Roman Catholic monastery of the Benedictine tradition called Glenstal Abbey. Usually in black robes, the monks structure their day around prayer by coming together in the Abbey Church in the morning, mid-day, early evening, and at the end of the day. Mostly in Latin they read the Psalms, and through song they offer scripture, prayer, and devotion. They also study and reflect in private for extended times, in addition to various work at the Abbey. It hosts a dairy farm, library, formal gardens, popular guest house, and a vibrant and prestigious boarding school. These external regiments are intended to provide openings for resonance in the heart.

As a beekeeper, I especially like the apiary (the honeybee zone) and visited there in 2017 to explore the spirituality of beekeeping. I sat on a bench, alone among the hive boxes and the sound of bees, connected to expressions of life that have echoed for millions of years. In days that followed, the inner spaciousness deepened as I walked well-worn paths on the grounds, along stone wall fences, across arched bridges over quiet streams, through agricultural pastures, sports fields, rugged ravine, and rolling woodlands with massive beech, ash, and oak trees. The five hundred acres are home to wildlife and large swans dot the ponds.

The monks are intentional about hospitality as a practice of Christian life. Some meals are shared in silence, while others involved visiting. It was fun to meet some of the brothers, and other guests who came from around the world.

Back in Idaho on Pacific Time, I still visit Glenstal via the church’s webcam. Although they have recordings, I especially like to participate live. When they gather at the end of their day for evening vespers or compline night prayer, my day is beginning. At the end of their service one monk blows out the candles, and at the same time, I light candles to claim the global reach of ongoing prayer and spiritual connection.

I notice much of the formal practice of the Rule of St. Benedict is cataphatic prayer, which is a fancy word that means it involves talking, listening, engaging imagination, or concentrating focus of some sort. The scripture readings ebb among a larger flow of melodic chants. Prayers are recited from traditional worship resources. The Abbey church is adorned with flowers and colors of the season. This tradition involves global and diverse unity that spans lifetimes of faithful servants.

My favorite part of the church webcam is at the end, with an informal practice of apophatic prayer, which involves objectless awareness through self-emptying, deep silence, and letting go. This release of structure indicates willing consent to the mystery of God’s divine Presence. Trains of thought get derailed as God’s Spirit honors the meditations of the heart.

As the monks file out of the Abbey Church, they blow out the beeswax candles, disconnect the microphone, and close the books. The main lights are turned off. In the dim, empty sanctuary, one monk remains. He has white hair, sits near the front, is slouched over in his aged body, and is a consistent presence in the quiet. Though we are thousands of miles apart, we sit together in apophatic prayer and allow the unity of Christ to be in and among us. This can go on for some time, but he usually “out-sits” me. After a while, I get up to continue in my day that is, like his, rooted in prayer, grounded in Christ’s living presence, and sustained by the Holy Spirit’s active love that holds all things together.

How do you find your quiet?

In our busy world of noise, active practices, and distractions, what is it that catches your attention enough to fall into spaciousness?

Pay attention to your day as we come alongside the Psalmist who also seeks the balance of action and contemplation, and says in prayer,

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
Yahweh, my rock, and my redeemer.
(Psalm 19:14, W.E.B.)

Peace and All Good, Andy Kennaly


Andy Kennaly
Andy is an author, pastor, spiritual director, and a bee keeper who lives and enjoys the Pacific Northwest in Sandpoint, Idaho. As a writer and pastor he explores mysteries, graces, and many facets of Christ’s Incarnation. To express experiential faith of the mystical tradition, he shares sermons, poetry, and story through the eyes of contemplative faith and spirituality, bee keeping, and gardening based on Permaculture principles. He and his wife, Shawna, have three grown sons. Honey Frame Place is the name of their home property. Andy currently serves First Presbyterian Church of Sandpoint as part-time Pastor. Past sermons can be seen at
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