A Culture of Love

The Cultural Impact of Tautra Mariakloster

A monastery is often called “a school of charity,” referring to “charity” not so much in the

modern colloquial sense of simply being kind, but more in the original etymological sense, from

the Latin “caritas”, which is a virtue similar to the Greek “agape”, one of the several types of

“love”. Thus monasteries are schools of love, specifically, of the divine love of God; even more

specifically, Christian monasteries are schools of the divine love of Christ.

In the posthumous collection of writings entitled The Monastic Journey, the Trappist monk

Thomas Merton wrote:

“St. Bernard of Clairvaux expanded and implemented the thought of St. Benedict when

he called the monastery ‘a school of charity.’ The main object of monastic discipline,

according to St. Bernard, was to restore man’s nature created in the image and likeness of

God – that is to say, created for love and for self-surrender.”

Merton himself had given the title “The School of Charity” to one of his own pamphlets, and

although the pamphlet was never published in its intended form, the title was adapted as a

subtitle of Merton’s book Monastic Peace, later included in The Monastic Journey. In 1990 the

title appeared yet again, on a publication of “The Letters of Thomas Merton on Religious

Renewal and Spiritual Direction,” the third volume in a 5-volume series. Trappists and

Trappistines – the same order as that of Tautra Mariakloster – have rarely found a more eloquent

expression of their charism than through the voice of Brother Louis, known to the rest of the

world as Thomas Merton, whose prolific writings are still cherished today, more than 40 years

after his death. And perhaps no one has ever articulated more aptly the Culture of Love, or the

School of Charity, that is at the essence of the O.C.S.O. tradition, than did Merton.



A journey.



Such are the elements of monasticism. And all are central aspects of life at Tautra Mariakloster.

Far from being an abstract philosophy, however, concepts such as these represent a very

practical type of common sense, and perhaps the only feasible way for humanity to survive.

Fruits of Monastic Life

In general, the cultural impact of any monastery upon the society in which it is located may be

felt in a number of different ways. Among their many other gifts to those around them,

monasteries offer a different perspective of life, especially in regard to hope, love, work, human

interaction, and the meaning of life itself. In each case, monasteries bring the ancient wisdom of


their respective theological traditions into a modern context, offering to the societies of today a

type of understanding and approach to human coexistence that has been successfully tried and

tested for nearly 2 millennia in Christianity, ever since Anthony of Egypt first retreated into the

desert in the 3 century A.D., and for over 2 millennia rd in the Eastern monastic tradition that

dates from Buddhism circa 500 B.C. on the Indian subcontinent. It is no accident that

monasticism has survived for as long as it has, thriving in both the Eastern and Western

traditions, as a world without monasteries would be a very bleak and dark world, indeed.

Humanity needs monasteries, if for no other reason than to remind us of the true nature of our

own humanity. But the monastic treasury of gifts to society is far greater and more innumerable

than this, some qualities of which are briefly addressed below.

Ora et Labora

Prayer and manual labor fill the monk’s day. In addition to earning their living by the work of

their hands, monastic communities are centered around the praise of God. At Tautra

Mariakloster, Mass, Adoration, the Divine Office and personal lectio divina are focal points of

the daily rhythm; and since most of the Office is sung, music is a vital component of their

monastic prayer.

From simple observations such as these, one may immediately see that Christian monasteries

cultivate those elements of human interaction which nurture life and growth, as attention is paid

to several fundamental concepts, such as:

1/ the nature of God’s divine Love, which presupposes the notion that there is a God,

2/ the well-being of one’s neighbor,

3/ the importance of eternity and the afterlife,

4/ the health and well-being of one’s own spiritual nature, without which human physical

nature cannot exist,

5/ the example of Christ’s life as a model for our own.

One can well imagine how secular society might be different if everyone were attentive to such

considerations. People of all faiths, even people of no faith, could benefit at least by the

acknowledgment of such concepts, whether or not one chooses to agree with them.

Life and Light

In concrete terms, a Culture of Love is a culture of life, a culture of respect, a culture that fosters

mutual understanding and growth. It emphasizes service to one’s neighbor rather than greed for

oneself. It gives to others, instead of taking from others. It honors and upholds the fundamental

dignity that is at the essence of every human being. It strives to nurture the basic goodness of

each individual, it recognizes a higher power than oneself, and it humbly asks this higher power

to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” A culture of life is an

ancient antidote to the modern “culture of death” that insidiously permeates every developed and

developing nation on earth.


Abortion, divorce, broken families, materialism, drugs, terrorism, war, corporate corruption, the

global economic crisis, etc. etc.: what could possibly be more relevant to these modern plagues

than the “alternative” ideals that monasteries offer? At the very least, the presence of a

monastery in a society reminds us that there are, in fact, such things as ethics and morals.


The ancient yet ever new, always fresh perspective that monasteries offer is applicable to every

contemporary dilemma and conundrum of our era, and of every era. Such a perspective is

particularly relevant to the political leaders of the world – in fact, it is a perspective that is

urgently needed.

Christian monasteries shine as an example of Christ’s love for each and every one of us. To

many, this type of revelation is a source of comfort and consolation, a cause for great rejoicing;

to some, however, it might pose an uncomfortable and conflicting view to unchallenged beliefs,

or to an absence of beliefs. In either case, the mere existence of a monastery forces the observer

to question and to seek the Truth, by whatever means might be possible for that particular

individual. An encounter with a monastery, no matter how brief, has often launched many an

inquiring mind on a personal spiritual quest. No doubt there have been as many conclusions and

results of such quests as there are individual people – but regardless of what one’s personal

background might be, and regardless of where the journey might lead, for those who dare to

embark upon the journey, monasteries cannot be ignored.

Hope & Courage

In the midst of an uncertain and dangerous world, the mere sight of a monastery is a sign of

hope. A monastic presence emanates a stabilizing, centering influence, reminding us to “be not

afraid.” Christian monasteries offer us the faith that God will “give us this day our daily bread,”

as we are also reminded that if we merely ask, we shall receive.

Especially in the aftermath of a tragedy such as Utøya, the presence of a Christian monastery

offers the hope of resurrection and an afterlife, the possibility of embracing our loved ones again

in Heaven, and the knowledge that we will enjoy their company throughout eternity. It offers the

theological certitude that there is no such thing as final death, that good shall triumph over evil,

joy will vanquish sorrow, and human suffering is not in vain.

Non-Catholics and even non-Christians have been known to draw strength and courage from the

Christian monastic example of persevering with fortitude through difficult times – without

despair, without fear, but instead grounded in unshakable faith and joy, not in the things of this

world but in the higher power of an Absolute which transcends all worldly concerns.


In 1946, the Jewish Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Dr. Viktor Frankl

authored Man’s Search for Meaning, still considered one of the most influential works of

philosophy and psychiatry ever written. By the time of Dr. Frankl’s death in 1997, the book had

sold over 10 million copies in 24 languages, and it is still in print and for sale today.


The human being has always turned its gaze toward the stars, wondering why we are here, what

is the point of it all, and what is the meaning of life. If one does not look beyond oneself and

beyond this world for the answers to such questions, one will surely be disappointed. By

contrast, monasteries offer timeless answers to these age-old existential questions: answers that

are framed within the wisdom of the ages, filled with hope, meaning and encouragement,

applicable to any person, place and time.

Inner Fulfillment & Joy

St. Augustine wrote in his Confessions:

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in


People who do not have God in their lives seek a substitute for God, whether that be through

money, material possessions, pleasure, fame, or anything else that fuels the ego. There is, of

course, no substitute for God. The trappings of this world do not satisfy the universal human

hunger for God. Only God can satisfy the soul’s longing.

A monastery stands as an eloquent, living testament to this fact.

As Mother Teresa often pointed out, the material poverty of the East is surpassed only by the

spiritual poverty of the West. But a monastery radiates that deep inner fulfillment which is

possible only when one seeks God first and foremost, above all else, irrespective of one’s

material lot in life.

In the radiant smiles of each member of a monastic community, the secular world gets a small

glimpse into the type of peace that surpasses all understanding, and which is readily available to

anyone who seeks it, although few ever do.

One need not join a monastery in order to benefit from its example! Indeed, there is much to be

learned even from a distance, especially for those who are active members of secular society. In

fact, those who bear ordinary responsibilities within the context of modern secular life are

perhaps the very people who can benefit the most from the monastic example, as it is precisely

such people who can help radiate the Culture of Love throughout the rest of the world, having

first been fortified and strengthened, enriched and informed by the lessons and insights which

monasteries afford.

Gifts of the Spirit

In previous centuries, monasteries were the custodians of art and literature, preserving for

posterity the greatest achievements of civilization. Although this remains true to a lesser extent

today, the most valuable gift of monasticism in future years may simply be the preservation and

transmission of faith, hope and love.

Monasteries also remind us that mankind’s search for God is not nearly as relentless as God’s

search for mankind. The hounds of Heaven are after us!


At the Heart of Frosta

Turning one’s attention from the general to the specific, one may easily see that Tautra

Mariakloster continues to touch and change the lives of others, in very real ways, as it has done

since its founding. To put it in religious terms, Tautra Mariakloster is a blessing to all who come

in contact with it. Each person who has experienced this fact can articulate their own personal

details to this effect – and they often do!

The impact which Tautra Mariakloster has on its neighboring society is profound, though such

an impact is not uni-directional, but it is reciprocated, as the cultural influences of Norway on

Tautra Mariakloster are equally as profound. Certainly one can hear the cross-pollenation in the

liturgical music that is sung, in the Norwegian language, at Tautra Mariakloster every day, but

this is merely one of many manifestations. If one could look inside the hearts of the members of

Tautra Mariakloster, no doubt one would find a deep love of Norway, of the Norwegian people

and culture, indelibly engraved upon each heart, closely guarded and protected within each

member of this monastic community that has been so warmly welcomed and adopted by the

people of Norway. Monasteries have always been intimately connected with their neighboring

cultures, and in this respect Tautra Mariakloster is one of the most fortunate of all monasteries.

Not only has Tautra Mariakloster touched and changed the lives of the many Norwegian citizens

with whom it has come in contact, but many of these Norwegians have also touched and changed

the lives of each member of the Tautra Mariakloster community. Beyond any of our own lives,

however, Tautra Mariakloster extends its loving reach further than the geographic boundaries of

Norway, and further into the future than our current vision allows. Tautra Mariakloster’s role in

history is now secured, as is Frosta’s role in providing the venue for this bold and brave venture,

the first monastery of its type on Norwegian soil in 8 centuries. As impressed as humanity might

be today by such an achievement, no doubt the impact will be even greater upon posterity, as the

full story continues to unfold in each of your lives and hearts, ultimately recounted in history

books throughout the world.

A Radical Way of Living and Thinking

A monastery is a powerful symbol of the highest and noblest qualities to which the human being

is capable of rising. Yet the mere concept of a monastery is so radically different from “the

norm” that some people still don’t quite know what to make of it.

So whenever one is weary from the weight of worldly matters, just remember that there is such a

thing on this earth as a monastery, where the human spirit is allowed, and indeed encouraged, to

aspire toward otherworldly goals, and to soar to Heavenly realms. Whenever one is in need of a

moral compass or beacon for navigating the twists and turns of life, turn to monasteries for that

guiding direction and light. Whenever one needs a radiant smile or the sweetness of a joyful

greeting, an understanding ear or the comforting touch of a hand, born of divine love and

profound inner peace, turn to the members of a monastery. And when, fortunate people of

Norway, you feel the need for a sign of God’s mysterious love for you, look no further than

Tautra Mariakloster.

For within each monastery the miraculous flame of God’s love dwells among us, shining

brightly throughout the earth, never letting us forget the beauty of our souls’ origin.

What individual person, what family or household, what neighborhood, city or nation, and which

of the world’s many great religions, would not eagerly welcome such a treasure?