“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
— Romans 12:1-2
HULBERT — When monks at Clear Creek Abbey don their simple black habits each morning, their day is patterned much like the one before: eight hours of prayer in Latin, basic meals and manual labor.
However, what springs forth from this routine — a focus on the Lord — is anything but mundane, the abbey's leader said.
Abbot Philip Anderson said this simple way of life is the way he and 40 other monks at the rural Cherokee County monastery are living out their Christian faith.
He said the disciplined, strict monastic life hearkens back to monastic living of yesteryear.
“It is a witness to the world — a witness to the existence of God,” Anderson said.
A simple life
He said the simple way of life at the abbey is precisely what he had in mind when he chose to leave his life as a Kansas college graduate in the 1970s for a monastery in the heart of France. He said 31 young men from America just like himself chose to enter Our Lady of Fontgombault Abbey in France on the condition that they would become monks and eventually be sent back to the United States to found a monastery.
Only seven of the Americans, Anderson among them, of course, saw the plan come to fruition when Clear Creek Abbey was founded in 1999.
Anderson, 60, said at least one of the would-be monks left the monastery and later married while another went to work for a computer company in France. He said many of the others left because it was difficult to be away from their native country and adjusting to having to learn a new language and culture; plus the cold, damp winters were not easy.
Anderson said the seven Americans that helped found Clear Creek were joined by several Canadian and French monks for a total of 13. He said new members began coming right away, in part, because there are not many American monasteries that adhere to the type of spartan living of Clear Creek.
Anderson said unlike some monasteries, like St. Gregory's in Shawnee, the monks at Clear Creek do not teach university classes or serve as parish priests. Instead, he said their focus is prayer and the basic upkeep of the monastery.
He said eventually, they hope to house about 60 monks when the monastery complex, which is about one-third complete, is finished.
Anderson said Clear Creek was founded in Hulbert because of the welcoming attitude of the Most Rev. Edward Slattery, bishop of the Tulsa Diocese. Anderson said leaders from the French monastery visited several sites in places like Oregon, California and Tennessee, but Slattery's enthusiastic invitation won out.
Anderson said if an American site had not been found, the American monks in his group had agreed that they would stay in France.
Recently, the former Marine who grew up in Kansas, said he always knew that he would find his way back to the Midwest.
He said it is in the serenity of the abbey's property, along with the prayers and Gregorian chants offered by the monks, that the joys of the monastic life come sharply into focus.
“It's kind of like when you see someone praying with their hands together and their fingers pointing to heaven,” Anderson said.
“The monks' life, people say they don't get married, they're renouncing really important parts of life for God, so that says God must be real because no one would do that just for the fun of it or just to pretend. We give an example that sort of speaks about God. Whether they understand Latin or not, people can still see what the monks are doing. It's just a witness to the existence of God.”