The Abbey of New Clairvaux is located just outside the small farming
community of Vina in the northern Sacramento Valley (a few miles east
of Corning off Interstate 5).
At one time, this 600-acre spread belonged to California pioneers Leland
Stanford and Peter Lassen. Today, it's planted in walnut and prune trees.
These provide monks such as Brother Casimir with an income. The prunes
are sold to Sunsweet and the walnuts to the Diamond Walnut cooperative.
The Trappist religious order, founded by St. Benedict, has a long history
of farming. It is felt that being close to the soil brings one closer
to God. Visitors are encouraged to visit the Abbey and spend a couple
of nights. There is comfortable lodging available along with wholesome
vegetarian meals. The price is minimal—guests are requested to give a
small donation to help cover costs.
This is an atmosphere conducive to prayer and reflection. People of all
faiths are welcome. To find out more, call the Abbey of New Clairvaux
at (530) 839-2161.
We last visited our friend Brother Casimir in 1998 and thought it time
to check in to see what's new at the Abbey of New Clairvaux. And like
his trusty truck, Brother Casimir is still going.
"I'm probably one of the three seniors left. There's three of us
left from the founders. So you feel like old Yellowstone Park, you know,
an old geyser. But you can still shoot off once in a while."
Founded by a group of Trappist Monks in the 1950s, New Clairvaux occupies
land once owned by Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University.
As one of the senior members of this peaceful monastery and farm, Brother
Casimir has seen a lot of changes over the years, and two new projects
could be the most exciting yet. After ten years of planning, a twelfth
century medieval "chapter house" from a monastery in northern
Spain is being resurrected right on the grounds of New Clairvaux. Brother
Paul Mark Schwan explained,
"So from that point on we've been involved in fundraising and measuring
all the stones and trying to put the puzzle back together."
A chapter house has many uses. It's a place for community meetings and
where monks take their first vows. Father Paul says the chapter house
is just part of a larger expansion that will include a permanent church.
Plums and walnuts are still the main crops here but the latest addition
to the ranch is wine grapes. The monks had their first commercial crush
in 2003 and plan to use this old wine cellar for bottling and storage.
While the past several years have been full of new ventures for the Abbey,
life has been a challenge for Brother Casimir. He says heart bypass surgery
and a recent bout with pneumonia have reinforced his deep faith and made
him more aware of his own mortality.
"It's amazing the peace that you experience when you're right on
the edge of death, incredible. I used t o plan about five years ahead
and now I plan about five seconds, said Brother Casimir."
While his faith sustains him spiritually, it's the simple life at the
Abbey that keeps him going physically. Visitors to New Clairvaux are offered
both lodging and meals. All that's asked in exchange is a donation. Visitors
find time to reflect and roam the grounds, to read, and to watch
men like Brother Casimir hard at work harvesting
"A special thank you goes to the Holiday Inn Express Hotel and
Suites in Corning for accommodating the Heartland crew."