KERENS, Texas – Here in cow country about 70 miles southeast of Dallas, amid scattered pecan trees and sloping fields of milkweed, six monks have come to live and pray.
They came from a monastery in New Mexico and, before that, from Vietnam.
"It's Buddhist, isn't it?" said 65-year-old Charlie Jock, who lives several miles away, making him one of the new monastery's closest neighbors. He'd heard of it, but hadn't gone by to check it out.
"I didn't figure it was gonna be any of my business to be nosy, so I just steered clear," he said.
Actually, these are Benedictine monks – that is, Catholic, not Buddhist. During their opening ceremony Saturday morning, they even received a goodwill letter from officials in Rome.
"On the happy inaugural occasion of the new monastic presence ... in the noble land of Texas," the letter began.
The monks will live a life inspired by the rule of St. Benedict, a sixth-century text that provides directives for daily living, such as communal prayer, meditative reading and manual labor. They'll wake before sunrise each morning for the first of six or seven prayer sessions each day, totaling four hours.
"Some may ask, 'What's the spirituality of the sixth century got to do with today's modern world?' " said Bishop Kevin Farrell of the Diocese of Dallas, speaking to several hundred Catholics gathered under a big white tent – most of them Vietnamese-Americans from the Dallas area.
He told them the monks' long days of praying and honoring God help those who do not have as much time. And the monks, with their sparing lifestyle, can serve as role models, he said.
"The rule of St. Benedict is also often spoken of as the virtue of moderation in our world, a world that enjoys excesses in every shape and form," the bishop said. Read more.
Tip O' the hat to Deacon Greg.