Sunday, November 1, 2015

Following the Monastic Path at Redwoods Monastery

The following article appeared in the Santa Rosa Diocese publication North Coast Catholic

There is a walking trail on the monastery’s property that winds along the bank of the Mattole River – up and down gentle ravines and through running creeks.  The river bank is fortified by the roots of giant redwoods and the water is crystal clear.  Occasionally we see fish – large steelhead and baby salmon – along with eels, ducks and river otter.  Then the trail swerves away from the river and enters an ancient grove of redwoods.  Some giants have fallen and are decomposing on the mountainside while new redwoods grow from out of old stumps.  Everywhere there are signs of regeneration – rebirth – and renewal.  Hope.  The Easter Mystery reflected in the very earth we live on.

Over 50 years ago, a group of sisters from the Cistercian Monastery of Nazareth in Brecht Belgium, left their homeland, their families, and monastery to travel to an unknown and rugged wilderness in the Lost Coast area of Southern Humboldt County California.  Most did not speak English or have any experience of American culture.  They were cloistered contemplatives nuns who embarked on their pioneer journey the very day Vatican II began.   The spirit of the Council marked the foundation of Redwoods Monastery with an eagerness and energy to adapt the Cistercian charism to yet another culture and age, while always maintaining fidelity to our Benedictine Cistercian heritage.

Today hospitality to guests is an important ministry of our monastery.  We run a guesthouse open during the summer months for weekend and weeklong retreats.  In outreach to young people, Redwoods hosts an immersion experience for Santa Clara University students interested to learn more about our spirituality and life.  In addition to this, we offer a weekend especially geared for young women seeking vocational discernment and an introduction to contemplative prayer.  It is held in Summer every year.  Contact Sr Suzanne at for more information.

Our life is a pattern of prayer, study, meditation, and manual labor that is woven into the fabric of community, centered on Christ as our Lord and brother.  We meet Him daily in the Eucharist, in lectio divina, and the “everydayness” of our monastic vocation.  Whether it is working at honey, tending the vegetable garden, cleaning the guest house, or cooking dinner, we strive to do all with a mindfulness that “the divine presence is everywhere.” (Rule of St Benedict Chapter 19:1).

In order to earn our livelihood, we produce creamed honey in 7 flavors: Original, Almond, Anise, Cinnamon, Ginger, Lemon and Orange.  Jars and Gift Boxes are available on our website, , and in many local stores and co-ops.  Cards, icon prints and other handiworks made by the sisters are available in our monastery with some items featured online.

If you would like to find out more about our life or purchase Monastery Creamed Honey, please visit