My Opa was orphaned at age 2. He was the youngest, and together with his 4-year-old brother they were sent to an orphanage to be raised by monks. His older brothers went off on the merchant marines, to work on ships. The only family he knew were the monks.

I grew up with Heer Oom and Broeder Edward as part of my family. I only heard smatterings of details of why they were family growing up. To me they were, are, family.  They are both long gone now, I barely remember Heer Oom (which means Lord Uncle, I need to ask my mom about this title). Broeder Edward (broeder = brother) I remember well. The last time I saw him we visited him at the old monks home. A gorgeous old estate somewhere in the countryside of Holland.

Most of the monks lived, ate, prayed in a large, central building. A little castle like if I remember correctly. A church, or chapel, was attached with quiet nooks for deep prayer. Broeder Edward was most proud of the extensive gardens, and it was early summer. The roses were in full bloom. I can almost take a breath and smell them still.

At the far end of the property there were stables, and I remember begging to go and visit the horses. I loved horses. Still do. By then there weren’t many horses left, even monks can drive cars. However, above the barn was a big, huge, loft that spanned the length of the sizable stable below. One monk had made it his domain. From one end to the other stretch a long table(s). A model train running the length. Miniature houses, trees, people, lined the tracks. It was breath-taking.

The joy, peace, happiness I felt there, in that monastery, made me want to grow up and be a monk. Sometimes, I still want to grow up to be a monk.

That monastery reminds me of the Bebenhausen monastery near me. I feel at home. Familiar. At peace. I absolutely love coming here and it was a joy to go with Karen before she returned to the states. I especially loved touring the dormitories. While the Dutch do not have the fachwerk architecture the Germans do, the long halls, the solitary rooms, felt very familiar. The beds gave me a giggle. Their small size would’ve been a stretch for me (all 5’2″ of me). I could only imagine Emmett, Karen’s husband, trying to stuff his giant frame (he’s at least 6’4″) into one!

The dormitories

The small, but oh so warm beds

Can you imagine living across the street from the monastery?

The church from the courtyard

Inside the refectory

Standing on the curtain wall surrounding the monastery

The gorgeous archways over the halls

the other side of the courtyard

The ornate pulpit inside the monastery church

The study room, and the massive ceramic oven they used to keep it warm.

A gorgeous mural on the study room wall

Outside the main building

A watch tower