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

I spent the first week of Advent at St. Andrew’s Abbey, the Benedictine monastery in the unincorporated community of Valyermo (Spanish: “Barren Valley”) located an hour and half northeast of LA in the Mojave Desert.

My history with St. Andrew’s goes way back. In 2000, four years after I came into the Church, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Who to turn to? How to face my mortality? Where to pray?

At the time I was barely acquainted with the “retreat” concept, but to get away by myself in silence and solitude proved to be a tremendous balm.



  1. Mary Flanagan says: Reply

    Thank you so much for describing your experience at St Andrews. That touched on an interest within me and I’m sure many other people…. And now I’m going to look up what the vow of Stability means.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Yes, it’s interesting…stability coupled with an ongoing openness to change…doesn’t mean you can never move, obviously…

  2. Ingrid Christensen says: Reply

    Heather, I am thankful that you never stop pursuing God’s will for your life. God bless you, and Merry Christmas. Ingrid

  3. Colleen Llamas says: Reply

    May you have a blessed Christmas and a joyous 2024. I was surprised about you joining the Benedictine oblate, I thought you would join the third order of Carmelites. The book you wrote on St Therese was very insightful . Thank you for being a shining light in our beautiful faith.
    Colleen from San Diego

  4. Kellie Newland says: Reply

    I Cheer you on the path forward! A few years ago I went on a 3 day “retreat” in the Colorado mountains, taking with me a pile of books I wanted to read. One book I just threw in the pile was “The Rule of St Benedict” (By Fry). I attended mass during my personal retreat and learned that it was the feast day of St Benedict. After mass I stopped into a jewelry store to look over antique pieces and collectibles. My eye was immediately drawn to an old medal that the designer had turned into a lovely necklace. As I looked at the medal carefully, you guessed it, it was St Benedict’s medal. Of course, I bought it instantly. The message was too much to ignore… look at the rules, Kellie. Open your heart to this life.

    Ah, I’m so happy for you.

  5. Anonymous says: Reply

    St. Andrews Abbey is a very special place!

  6. HEATHER KING says: Reply

    Thanks and blessings to you all; I so appreciate the good wishes.

    From Esther de Waal’s “Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict”: “Benedictine balance and modertation…is no easy middle way. It does not mean playing afe; it is no recipe for mediocrity. On the contrarary, it is extremely demanding…What the Benedictine life can show us is the possibility of keeping equilibrium in the midst of polarity. The monk lives constantly at the point of tension between stability and change; between tradition and the future; between the personal and community; between obedience and initiative; between the desert and the marketplace; between action and contemplation. Yet this is in fact nothing more and nothing less than the paradox of the Christian life itself”…

    So I have my work cut out for me…Hallelujah.


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