Saint Leo Abbey Grotto 2014
Visiting the Abbey at Saint Leo has led me towards the path of God's calling in my life. This all sounds so strange, but I first found out about the Abbey while working with the Pasco County Animal Control. I was assisting the department with their rabies control program. Part of the program included throwing bait out for the wildlife on golf courses of all places!
It had been a long day and the Abbey course was the last place my coworker and I had to visit. We were on a golf cart when we came upon the Grotto. I was so intrigue by it, but my coworker wasn't as moved and so I vowed to come another day on my own.
After that day I would visit the Grotto when I was in the area to pray and meditate. One day, as I sat in silence there, I decided I would visit every Grotto in the state of Florida.
As time went on I had a calling to write a book on Florida Grottos. The book would also incorporate the spiritual poetry I had written over the years. Of course the first Grotto on my journey was at Saint Leo.
It just so happened that I had been to visit the Grotto many times, but I had never been in the gift shop or in the actual Abbey. Thus, the day I decided to visit the Grotto to gather some information for my book such as pictures and history I visited the gift shop. It was there that I met Brother James; he was kind enough to give my sister and me a brief history and told us we should walk the grounds and go inside the church and such.
After the visit, I was so taken by the Abbey and all it had to offer I wanted to check it out online. As I looked through the website I came across the information on the Oblate opportunities. It was all fitting in so well, like a jigsaw puzzle, with the book I am writing and my desire to become closer to God.
But some issues were holding me back. Like trying to live a spiritual life while at the same time not being held in a low place with all the world's uncertainty. Everyday is a challenge when we are so bombarded with negative images.
I was becoming more in tune with the spiritual side of me, but doing so in a non-monastic life felt daunting.
And so I prayed on it and went about visiting some of the other Grottos.
Finally I decided to apply to become a Novice. My first formal visit was the day of the Feast of Saint Benedict. I met and spoke to so many informative people and most had told me it was a calling that brought them to the Abbey as well.
A few had told me they weren't sure if they were ready to make the commitment, but I knew I was. The Lord had led me to the Grotto and when he knew I was ready he introduced me to the Abbey and the Oblate program. And so as it goes, if you keep you mind open and your heart lifted you'll see what is in store for you.
I am ready to begin my journey; I look forward to this year in my life. I hope you'll join me as I share it with you. God Bless!
Jackie Hartley, Oblate Novice
Saint Leo Abbey 2015
Saint Leo Abbey 2015
Photo Credit: Grotto 2014 by oblate George Davis
Note: Jackie Hartley became an oblate novice March 21, 2015, the Feast of Saint Benedict. She is writing a series of articles about her life, in the life, as a novice oblate on the path to dwell with God.
This article is her first article. Others will be posted on this blog and also listed on her articles' page on the Saint Leo Abbey Oblate website, here.
Oblate James Janicki also wrote a series of articles during his novice year.