Monday, September 19, 2011

The Road to Ganagobie

When Jean Luc Lievet hitched a ride to the monastery at Ganagobie is was to be the ride of his life or more precisely the ride to his life.  Jean Luc had yearned for the monastic life since he was a teenager and now in his early fifties was doing “what I was meant to do” as he puts it.  When still in his teens Jean Luc was dissuaded by his mother from following the path of the cloth.  She told him that he should experience something of life before making such an encompassing commitment.  So he joined the French navy and saw the world in a big way.  The man has been everywhere.  He told me, “I have had a hard life” but didn’t describe his struggles.  He said that he longed for purity, clarity and an unfettered existence devoted to contemplation and the search for God.  With that pronouncement he pointed to the center of his chest.
We drove forS   Set on 40 mountain top hectares above the River Durance the Cluniac priory from the 12th century feels like the top of the world, the summit of absolute faith.  A short walk leads to a simple white cross that leads your eye across the Plateau du Valensole to the Alpes beyond.  
   
Just twelve monks occupy Ganagobie, thirteen with Jean Luc as its youngest brother. It’s lot of grandeur for a baker’s dozen of prayerful men.

Even as a non-believer I was taken by the warmth and grace of the monks.  Pere Francois, the hotelier for visiting retreatents, was 63 and looked 43. His unlined skin and clear eyes bespoke good health and real joy. The appeal of a pared down, focused life did not escape my understanding or appreciation.   
           Pere Francois graciously allowed one hopelessly back lit photograph of Jean Luc's reception.

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