Monday, March 28, 2011

Guests' Garden, Benedictine Monastery, Thu Duc

One of the places I mention a couple of times in Destination Saigon is the Benedictine Monastery in Thu Duc, an outlying district of Ho Chi Minh City.
It an incredible place, filled with pilgrims and, most extraordinarily for anyone familiar with monastic institutions in the West, lots and lots of young monks. There is certainly no crisis in vocations in Vietnam. In fact, senior monks told me that there was a considerable waiting list to enter the monastery even on a trial basis. Young men must first serve a period as manual labourers on the monastery's farms or serving the visiting pilgrims before they will even be considered as candidates for the religious life.
The first time I ever visited the monastery the monks grabbed me and treated me with the most enormous kindness, curiosity and care. I was given a guest room for the day, which faced onto this beautiful garden. Here I rested, read and wrote, and was served a wonderful meal by the monks, who lingered to ask me questions and practice their English.

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