The Abbey of Gethsemani

Thomas Merton's Abbey in Kentucky
The Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, where Thomas Merton spent much of his life. (Lori Erickson photo)

The abbey where Thomas Merton spent most of his adult life is still an active religious community that welcomes visitors.

Located 50 miles south of Louisville, the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani was established in 1848 and is a Roman Catholic monastery in the Order of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance (also known as the Trappists).

In Thomas Merton’s words, the monastery offers a place apart “to entertain silence in the heart and listen for the voice of God—to pray for your own discovery.”

Guests are welcome to join in Vigils, Lauds, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline (a set of services known collectively as the liturgy of the hours), as well as daily mass.  The backbone of these services is the 150 psalms, sung or recited according to a two-week cycle. The monks and others who pray the liturgy of the hours do so on behalf of the Church and of all humankind, to praise, thank and petition God throughout the day.

The abbey’s many acres of woodlands and fields offer extensive space for reflection and prayer. Guests structure their own retreat and are lodged in private rooms, but a monk is available for consultation or the sacrament of reconciliation. Speaking is permitted in designated areas only.

Retreats are scheduled from Monday to Friday morning and from Friday to Monday morning. Those on retreat may use the abbey’s library of books, magazines, and tapes.  The west side of the property, about 1200 acres opposite the church, is open to the public for walks and hikes.

Day visitors to the abbey are welcome as well.  A Welcome Center is open weekdays from 9:00 to 5:00 (holidays excluded) and offers an extensive selection of books and gifts, as well as a film about the abbey. Visitors to the monastery are asked to respect the privacy of the monks and their enclosed area, which is clearly marked by signs.

Daily Schedule at the Abbey of Gethsemani
3:15 am Vigils
5:45 am Lauds
6:15 am Eucharist
7:30 am Terce
12:15 pm Sext
2:15 pm None
5:30 pm Vespers
7:00 pm Rosary
7:30 pm Compline
3:15 am Vigils
6:45 am Lauds
10:20 am Terce
10:30 am Eucharist
12:15 pm Sext
2:15 pm None
5:30 pm Vespers
7:00 Rosary
7:15 pm Benediction/Compline


Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky
Sign at Entrance to Guesthouse (Lori Erickson photo)

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