Contemplative Life — Trappists in Northern Massachusetts
Monastic Life, Beer Making in America and the cure for Anxiety
There are places that give you an inner sense of peace, tranquility and pure contemplative joy. St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer Massachusetts is one of those places.  Destinations such as these offer the perfect afternoon escape when one wants to spiritually reset, sooth one’s mind and soul, push away feelings of anxiety and stress. And do so in a natural way.
This is my third or fourth visit to the abbey. It’s a very sunny Sunday, the temperature is close to 90 degrees. The drive to Spencer is just under two hours and thirty minutes from home. It is a drive that combines stretches of interstate highways and more rural, winding country roads, my favorite, with their twists and turns, tree covered miles , that proceed along hilly New England landscapes. Heading north , I expected the climate to be a bit cooler, and I was correct. When I reached the Abbey , a gentle, quite breeze welcomed me, like a patient friend that knew I was coming. It was perfect for today, as I had felt a deep need to come to such a peaceful place to rest, reset , and rejoice.
The abbey always gives me a sense, and to many of the people I have taken there, a glimpse of the contemplative life that this small community of Cistercian monks experiences , day in an day out.
Some background. The order of Cistercians, also known as Trappists, are followers of Benedictine rule.  They are known for maintaining an atmosphere of silence and for the way the support themselves through agriculture, wine making and brewing ales. Spencer abbey reflected both of these themes. It is a very peaceful , quite place. The only occasional voices one can hear are those of visitors. The monks, while not subject to a vow of silence, they do impose limits which helps establish an atmosphere that facilitates continual prayer. Their agricultural activities lead to production of products such as bread, cheese, jams. The Trappist tradition however, is well known for their beer making abilities. Spencer Abbey, was no different. Sadly, however in 2022, Spencer Abbey, the only certified Trappist brewery in America, decided on shutting down its operations