We met with Sean O’Malley from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania in the US.
“My name is Sean O’Malley, an Irish Catholic from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania in the US. I grew up going to church each week, eventually becoming an alter server. However, after high school, given the option to go to church or not, I chose not to attend church and to just ‘be good’ in my daily life without any real structure or practice of my faith. Being in church became monotonous and a task to complete rather than a communion in Christ the way it was meant to be. The next ten years were filled with struggle, beauty, strife and accomplishment, but an injury at work showed me how fragile and temporal any success is without God in the forefront of my thoughts and actions. At the age of 27, I had torn my hip and could no longer do my job delivering mass amounts of office supplies, pushing, pulling and lifting hundreds of pounds all day. Two years passed without healing and while being on workers compensation I was advised to lay low and not be seen having a life of any kind.
I shut myself off from society, damaged friendships, all the while becoming physically ill because my faith had been put into lawyers and insurance companies to determine my fate. Until one night at my lowest point, feeling lost and broken to my core, I heard a voice from a video as I was scrolling through social media. This person was talking about meditation, but on a deeper level it was as if he was speaking directly to me. I watched the series of videos this man had on the topic with the last video being an instruction on how to actually meditate. Throwing my hands up and saying, “Well, what do I have to lose?” I participated to my first meditation session.
Everything was as it should be even in its messiness
Within that first meditation session I was transformed, and that is not a word I use lightly. I realize that is not how most people experience meditation, especially their first time, but in me the Holy Spirit awakened my true self and I saw the world in a different way from then on. Through meditation, through its silence and stillness I was shown the reality that the saints and mystics have written and spoken about for centuries, and my illness was lifted from me.
By the Grace of God, and only by the Grace of God, I was shown that everything was as it should be even in its messiness. Perhaps that is all too personal and overwhelming for people to hear, but that was simply the beginning of my own spiritual journey. Since then it has been a completely new struggle, but one with God leading the way instead of me thinking I have to have it all figured out on my own. I had to surrender. Meditation is the gateway to a life spent with God, everyday. Not waiting for the Kingdom of Heaven, but seeing it in creation here and now by placing our attention on God. It is the conscious decision to turn towards God in gratitude, stillness, and silence. Meditation is the most important part of my life because it has been the connection to true love that I, and I think everyone, has always desired.
Meditation is the most important part of my life because it has been the connection to true love that I, and I think everyone, has always desired.
Their dedication to making Bonnevaux a place of worship, contemplation, peace and serenity was what really stood out to me
I was blessed to be able to stay at Bonnevaux for 25 days over the Christmas season, and while the landscape was beautiful and peaceful, it was the people that I loved the most. Their dedication to making Bonnevaux a place of worship, contemplation, peace and serenity was what really stood out to me. Their kindness allowed me to feel at ease in a foreign country, especially while away from family at Christmas. In fact, now a month after being back home, I miss the wonderful folks at Bonnevaux just as much as I missed my family at Christmas!
After experiencing true loneliness, there went my awakening
Being able to stay at Bonnevaux for a month, I was really able to get into the routine of multiple meditations a day, working, cooking, cleaning, and simply being present with those around me and in Christ. It felt like I was living my purpose while being there, and that every person there was a part of it. Whereas back at home I’ve once again fallen back into seclusion and the rhythm of my day has been dismantled. Before I was injured, over 4 years ago now, I had the rhythm of work 12 hours a day and the ‘community’ of those I worked with. It kept my life structured but it was a superficial or finite community of workers complaining about their work in solidarity.
Then I experienced true loneliness for 2 years being on the injured reserve without anyone to relate to or any goals to accomplish. After my awakening I once again had purpose and felt apart of something, but I was still alone on that journey. 2 years after that I was able to spend day and night in a community that understood my passion for contemplative living and nurtured that passion with conversation, but even more beautifully and profoundly in silence, together. Being immersed in a community that feeds the soul is something I wish every person in the world could experience, as I did at Bonnevaux.
“Being immersed in a community that feeds the soul is something I wish every person in the world could experience, as I did at Bonnevaux. “
Being in a community meant for me…
It helped me regain confidence in my spiritual work, but also helped rebuild my discipline after allowing it to fall to the wayside without work. Though I have wonderful friends and family to rely on, it isn’t much of a community in the sense of living in a daily routine that also invigorates the soul, which is what Bonnevaux is capable of doing. Thankfully there is a part of the WCCM here in Pittsburgh that gathers once a week that I have begun working with, and intend to help grow and nurture.
What I would you say to others who are thinking to visit Bonnevaux
Take the leap. It was the greatest decision I ever made and I wish I had never left! Even if you can only go for a long weekend retreat or a week, the experiences you share in will have a profound effect on your daily life henceforth. “