I spent just over 24 hours last week at St. Andrews Abbey. I’m not Catholic, but I enjoy joining the monks in the Daily Office. For those of you new to that term (and that would’ve been me a couple of years ago), it’s the practice of pausing at several set times through out the day for prayer and scripture reading. It’s also sometimes called the hours (no, not the book by Michael Cunningham). The monks meet in the chapel at 6AM, 7:30AM, noon, 6PM and 8:30PM. In between, they work at assigned jobs. I joined them three times, participated in my own retreat but, of course, found time to visit the Abbey bookstore.
As with the rest of the grounds, the bookstore is a soothing location with beautiful music, a quiet atmosphere, and inviting surroundings. Abbey Books & Gifts shelves a wide variety of books on spirituality. I expected to see only Catholic themed texts, but the store provides resources for several different faith traditions, specifically including Judaism and Buddhism. This is a fairly intellectual store, the options aren’t for the lightweight reader. The store is well-organized, shelves are clearly marked by saint, author, or type of spirituality. The emphasis is on Catholic theology. There are shelves of texts about each of the well-known saints and the writings of said saints. (Actually, I’m making a bit of an assumption. I don’t know many saints, but there were shelves for all that I did know and if I know them, they are, by definition, well known.) Plus, deep collections of books by Catholic theologians, i.e. Nouwen (my favorite), Merton, and Bonhoeffer. Various types of Catholic theology have entire sections: Cistercian, Benedictine, Eastern, and modern.
The topics I’ve seen in other general Christian stores were offered here also. Books on prayer, scripture studies, Bibles, and church history. There was a special section for children and young adult readers. Fiction is available, but it weighs toward the intellectual side. Think Flannery O’Connor and Penguin classics. The fantasy world is well represented with several shelves of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein.
While the store devotes most of its space to books, what it is most famous for is the ceramics made at the Abbey. The original monks created ceramic ornaments and decorative wall plaques using a specific angel figure and it is a tradition that continues. It’s not uncommon to see them represented on Southern California Christmas trees. After visiting the store, I realized there is an ornament for just about every occasion, profession, hobby, or sports activity.
For a chance to delve in serious spirituality, drop by the store in this beautiful high desert location or give the monks a call, they’d be happy to help you.
31001 N Valyermo Road
Valyermo, CA 93563