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Sacred sabbatical

There are three months in 26-year-old Rachel Verghese-Abraham’s life that she will never forget. Three months that reinforced her faith in God and renewed her spirituality.

india Updated: Jan 31, 2009 23:17 IST
Tasneem Nashrulla

There are three months in 26-year-old Rachel Verghese-Abraham’s life that she will never forget. Three months that reinforced her faith in God and renewed her spirituality. The three months that she lived and worked amongst monks and young Europeans in a remote monastery in France.

In 2007, Verghese-Abraham took a sabbatical from her job as a reporter to pursue her twin passions of traveling and volunteer work. A conscientious social activist, she was considered an eligible candidate by her church for a three-month fellowship to a French monastic committee that fosters faith among Christian youngsters around the world.

In December of that year, Verghese-Abraham left her home in Goregaon for the Taizé monastic order in Burgundy, France. In this sacred seclusion, she interacted with hundreds of other young Christians from European countries like Estonia and Lithuania.

Besides their daily ritual of prayers, they were given a weekly schedule of chores and Verghese-Abraham found herself mashing potatoes, boiling peas and carrots and laying the table with bread and cheese. She made the beds and toiled in the gardens. But she found herself enjoying this simple, ascetic life. “It was especially fun decorating the monastery for
Christmas. I cut a real Christmas tree for the first time in my life,” she smiles.

There were other firsts too. “I was exposed to the concept of hitchhiking for the first time,” she laughs. In her spare time she hitched rides in fancy cars to visit Belgium and Lyon. She prayed thrice a day, went for long walks in the beautiful countryside, taught her European friends about Indian arranged marriages and saris, made the nuns dance to a Malayalam song, and forged unforgettable bonds with her fellow Christians.

Most of all she renewed herself inside out. Verghese-Abraham says, “Whenever I am troubled, I reflect on those three months in the monastery. And I find the strength to endure anything.”