Time travel as close as your local cemetery.

Sunday’s Cemetery 24

August 2, 2015 / by davidwalton

DSC09089x DSC09056xCemeteries. Every city has one. They are mysterious, historic, haunting and, to me, fascinating. I developed a fondness for cemeteries as a boy.

Now whenever I’m out of town, I always make it a point to visit a cemetery. To me, they are better than any mountain range, skyline or other popular tourist attraction. They are hidden treasures containing a wealth of information about communities and the people who lived there.

Chances are you have visited a cemetery at some time in your life to pay your respects to a family member or friend, and perhaps you too appreciate the stories represented among the tombstones and monuments.

My travels take me to all over the South and Midwest – and sometimes further North – so I have decided to start documenting my cemetery visits with a series of photos in a Sunday feature.

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Kneeling beside the grave of Trappist monk Thomas Louis Merton who is considered one of the most influential American Catholic authors of the 20th Century.

DSC09064xThis week’s cemetery is The Abbey of the Gethsemani Trappist Cemetery near Bardstown, Kentucky in Nelson County.

Founded in December 1848, The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani is the oldest monastery in the United States that is still operating. It’s located on 2,000 acres in New Haven, KY.

The Trappist monks begins their day at 3:15 a.m., pray seven times a day and support themselves and the abbey through its store, Gethsemani Farms, which sells handmade Trappist cheeses, bourbon fudge and fruitcake, which was once rated “best overall” by the Wall Street Journal.

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Quiet zones are aplenty at The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani.

DSC09075xAlthough off limits to the general public, the Trappist monks cemetery at The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani is like a slice of heaven. It features uniformed white metal crosses that overlooks a valley and the lush green hills of Kentucky. According to Wikipedia, the monks are buried in the traditional Trappist manner, in their monastic habit and without a casket.

Probably the most famous of the Trappist monks buried here is author and social activist Thomas Merton, whose best-selling 1948 autobiography “The Seven Storey Mountain” took the world by storm. His grave marker reads: “Fr. Louis Merton, Died Dec. 10, 1968.” In 1996, the Dali Lama visited the grave of Merton whom he had met in 1968 — three weeks before Merton’s accidental death by electrocution in Bangkok. The Dalai Lama placed a kata on Merton’s grave which still remains at the site today. Thomas Merton, who was born on January 31, 1915, would have been 100 years old this year.

For more information, visit www.monks.org and https://www.gethsemanifarms.org.

Thomas Merton quote:
“Why do we spend our lives striving to be something we would never want to be, if we only knew what we wanted? Why do we waste our times doing things, which, if we only stopped to think about them, are the opposite of what we were made for?”

2 thoughts on “Sunday’s Cemetery 24

  1. The Abbey of the Gethsemani Trappist Cemetery sounds fascinating and, as always, your photos beautifully illustrate your descriptions.

  2. RayJ says:

    In response to Thomas Merton’s quote, which was quite likely rhetorical: First, he presupposes we know what we want, which may take a lifetime to discover. And second, sometimes life itself gets in the way, trying to scratch a living and meeting our basic survival needs as a necessarily prelude to self-fulfillment. But supposing you knew what you should do–or want to do, pausing life to think about it–I am sure Merton’s response would be to have faith in God for He will provide if you are doing His will, His bidding, what we are made for. That is what we should seek. My thoughts. Nice work, David.

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