Ora et Labora

Monastic living in the San Juan Islands

Our Lady of the Rock is a contemplative monastery comprised of seven Benedictine nuns, living their vocation of prayer and work (ora et labora) in the middle of Washington state’s Salish Sea on Shaw Island. Through the guidance of the ancient rule of St. Benedict, they embrace traditional methods of monastic living and farming, including donning the full habit, raising their own meat and produce, providing year-round hospitality for guests of all backgrounds, and praying the Divine office in Gregorian chant. Viewing the seven miles of the island as their enclosure rather than the walls surrounding their cells, these “semi-cloistered” Mothers are well-known and enjoyed neighbors among the island residents as well as a famed tourist attraction within the frequently traveled San Juan Islands.

Their lifestyle is one of great commitment to the land and the sacrificing of self for the harmony of communal life and prayerful intimacy with their God. Having not received a new nun in fifteen years, the monastery’s sustainability and longevity on Shaw is threatened by the lack of women willing to commit to the demands and isolation of such a life. The nuns’ ages currently range from their late sixties to late eighties and trips off island to see the doctor are becoming a more frequent aspect of their monastic schedule. Though despite their increasing age and diminishing health and energy, the Mothers have a tremendous amount of faith that “God will take care of this place” and continue to invest in building and sharing their wealth of knowledge with the individuals that seek them out, hoping to instill the wisdom of old with the future generations.