Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:

If, like me, you’re forever in search of a day or two of silence and solitude—do I have a place for you.

That would be St. Andrew’s Abbey, a male Roman Catholic Benedictine monastery, in the high desert an hour and half outside LA. You can either cut through the Angeles Forest, or take the long way around up the 5 to the 114 to Route 138 aka the Pearblossom Highway.

That will land you in the unincorporated community of Valyermo, on which, down a winding back road, St. Andrew’s is located. Pearblossom, Valyermo: pure poetry, and wait till you actually arrive!

Benedictines are known for their hospitality, and one of the Abbey’s main offerings consists in retreats. I’ve done many over the years: a few directed, most private. You get a room with heat, a swamp cooler, a bed, a desk, a patio and a crucifix. (Wifi is available in the Guest Lounge). You get acres of gorgeous desert to explore and roam. At 3600 feet, nestled in the northern foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, you get four seasons.

Spring is an explosion of colors, textures, and the fragrance of chaparral and sage. Summers are hot, all the better to enjoy the shade of the Lombardy poplars, cottonwoods, and chapel. In fall, the trees change color. I spent Christmas here the year my mother died and woke December 25 to snow. 

The Abbey is named for its mother house in Brugge, Belgium. Several missionary monks who had been expelled from Communist China bought the Hidden Springs Ranch in Valyermo and in 1955 established the monastery. Today, twenty monks make their lives of ora et labora—work and prayer—there.  


5 Replies to “ST. ANDREW’S ABBEY”

  1. I was especially touched by your piece on St. Andrew’s Abbey, personally so. Of course all of your writing has become “classic Heather King” : the marriage of the personal and the universal, the presence of nature exquisitely described, the quest for peace in longing, the deep appreciation of not only “humanity,” but actual people, lightly and sincerely loved. Here also though was your personal aspiration, putting it out there for us, giving us another reason to pray for a woman who has so helped us, but issuing a challenge as well. You know your readers, that so many if not all among us in reading this beautiful writing breathe, ‘That’s exactly what I’d like to do: step clean out of this world, lovable though it is, and finally feel at home. So it’s ok to dream it. ”

    Thanks again, Heather.

    1. Lawrence! I need to hire you as a publicist! What a beautiful description of my work–I could never have written that myself but that is absolutely the essence of what on some level I aim for, or of my heart. Wait’ll you all see my upcoming reflection on “Single Awareness Day”…now that I think of it, kind of a continuation of the St. Andrew’s Abbey piece. Anyway, thank you so much for letting me know that in this LOUD culture of disgruntled voices, my quieter work is reaching at least a few people. On we go…the camellias are blooming in Southern California.

  2. What Lawrence MCDonald just said. I couldn’t have said it any better. THANK YOU. XXOO

    1. I feel the same way, Mary Beth! How lucky are we all to have one another?! Sending love and thanks to you and all in the Columbus, Ohio area–

  3. Wonderful essay !!!