Fascinating subject. Nice writing. But there are a few religion ghosts to discuss.
That's my quick assessment of The Associated Press' feature this week on the "silent sanctuary" provided by a community of monks near Harvard Square. The lede:
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- Just blocks away from the bustling heart of this city, a community of monks offers a silent escape from it.
The Society of Saint John the Evangelist, an order of Episcopal brothers, has kept a guesthouse at its monastery for decades to give outsiders a place to unplug and relax in a place of deep, serene quiet.
Behind the stone walls, idle chatter is taboo. Cellphone calls are to be taken outside, or not at all. Signs posted throughout the house ask guests to respect the quiet.
It all acts as a counterweight to the hurry-scurry of Harvard Square around the corner, where crowds of tourists jostle with Ivy League academics amid the clamor of street performers, vendors and the thrum of traffic.
On the edge of that worldly world, the black-cloaked brothers say their goal is to offer spaces of silence and simple comfort.
"It's a place of sanctuary where you can be safe, and you can actually unpack what may be the jumble of your life," said Brother Curtis Almquist, one of the resident monks.
Keep reading, and the AP offers a little more insight -- a little more -- into the motivations of the people who come:
The meditative hush of the monastery is popular with parish groups on retreat, but guests come for reasons both religious and otherwise.
Many skip the chapel's worship services to dive into a novel or a nap. A few visitors have confided to the brothers that they mostly needed a place to stay for a conference.
"We're delighted to welcome them," Almquist said. "I think life is full of very mixed motives all the time."
However, here's my obvious question: For those who come for religious reasons, what would examples of those reasons be?
Might the silence and reflection relate to communicating with God? Might prayers during a time of crisis or personal need have something to do with all of this? Some people do, of course, go to monasteries to go to Confession with wise monks.
Interviews might have been a challenge. Maybe nobody was talking?
I kid. I kid. But I seriously wish the AP had delved a little deeper into the spiritual aspects of the silence.
The story avoids a single mention of "God" but does refer to "prayers" near the end:
Today, the brothers hold several daily services that guests can attend. For a memorable way to punctuate the day, guests can observe the brothers as they meet just before bedtime to chant their prayers in a sort of otherworldly lullaby before filing out in silence.
Although the brothers are meticulous about their quiet, they aren't bound by it — they speak when there's something to say. But they believe there's a rejuvenating quality to the silence, and see evidence in their guests. Upon departing, many report that they feel refreshed and ready for the fray outside.
As I said up top, it's a fascinating subject, and there's some nice writing.
Alas, the religion ghosts keep me from enjoying the piece as much as I would like. Yes, I wanted more faith content in a news story about a monastery.