August Turak

Author Consultant Speaker

Mepkin Abbey Q&A

Painting by Glenn Harrington
Painting at Mepkin Abbey by Glenn Harrington

What is a Monastic Guest?

As a monastic guest I actually get to live and work side by side with the monks. I have been doing this for many years and it provides a much richer experience.

Why do you go?

Many reasons... It's a chance to reconnect with people I love and respect. It's a way to remember what is really important in life. And, it's a way to experience what the monks like to call "the freedom of obedience."

What do you mean by, "the freedom of obedience"?

A monastic guest is the lowest head on the monastic totem pole. I just do whatever Brother John asks me to do and I am grateful for the privilege to do it. For most of us, service and selflessness is a nice idea. At the monastery, it's a way of life. 

What did Brother John have you doing this time around?

Sweeping, dusting, mopping, scrubbing, waxing and polishing. I spent a whole day manhandling a fifty foot fiberglass pole with a dustmop strapped to the end of it, scraping the cobwebs off the ceiling of the church and all I could think about as the sweat streamed down my face, was one of my mother's favorite nursery rhymes:

There was an old woman toss'd up in a basket Nineteen times as high as the moon; Where she was going I coun'd but ask it, For in her hand she carried a broom. Old woman, old woman, old woman, quoth I, O whither, O whither, O whither, so high? To brush the cobwebs off the sky But I'll be with thee, by and by

Then right in the middle, some woman walked up to me and said, "hey, are you August Turak? - I saw you give a lecture once," and she walked away.

Most people go to monasteries for peace and tranquility, but you've written that you go for the intensity. Could you explain?

At the monastery, you have plenty of time to think about all those things that you'd rather not think about. Mepkin is a mood, a mood of melancholy and nostalgia. It's by no means unpleasant, more like a window into the way things really are... life is precious and fleeting, magical, and despite our best efforts, passing away. As Father Guerric told me once: "I joined the monastery to slow down and let God catch up."

Any unique adventures?

Well, I successfully smuggled in a couple cans of peanuts for a couple monks, who for obvious reasons, must remain anonymous. And Father Feliciano and I went "AWOL" to buy Brother Stephen some hot pepper plants (because he is the only monk who likes them).

What do I do?

Slow down and let God catch up.