When I find myself needing to seek out spiritual renewal and solitude, there’s a secret place I go to in Oceanside. East of Interstate 5 on 76 and Benet Road and winding up a curvy drive behind a nondescript junkyard, sits a glorious respite from the world. A Benedictine monastery, founded in 1958 by monks of Saint Benedictine and the likes of Brother Benno, the property is situated on a mesa in the San Luis Rey river valley overlooking the Pacific. I call it Swami’s North because the same spiritual vortex energy that is in the ley lines of Self-Realization temple feels the same in this holy triangle between the Rosicrucian property to the south and the San Luis Rey mission to the east.
Once you arrive, you will find a hidden treelined pathway that passes through several microclimates and has 14 monuments depicting the stations of the cross adorned with small plaques. People who come here for retreats or pilgrimages devoutly walk from station to station, particularly during the Lenten season around Easter, to pray and reflect.
A colorful rose garden leads the way up to the chapel. Stone plates are carved with the names of the monks that have passed after serving their vocation here. Brother Benno being one of the most renowned of the order of Benedictine monks that worked tirelessly with the poor and homeless in Oceanside.
There is a Catholic Church on the site that is an architectural wonder. The woodwork is stunning along with the elaborate stained glass throughout. The tall full-length windows display the blue Pacific Ocean to the west as a stunning backdrop to a daily mass that is held Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m., along with Sunday service at 10:30 a.m. Devout prayer vigils are throughout the day, as well as rosary service. Check out the website for more information and proper Catholic protocol before attending any service here as this is a monastery church, and strict silence is adhered to during specific prayer times in the church.
Just outside is a colorful rose garden and stone plates with names of the monks that have passed through this monastery. Brother Benno being one of them as the most renowned of the order of Benedictine monks who worked tirelessly with the poor and homeless in Oceanside.
Having grown up Catholic, I have lots of experience in the church. My sisters would drop me off alongside the freeway on their way to high school an hour before my school at the Old Mission in San Juan Capistrano started. I would slide down the ice plant in my uniform and walk myself to the small chapel on the Mission grounds and attend the 7 a.m. Latin mass every day in what is now a historic adobe. I would kneel on the hard wooden pew kneelers and say the rosary every day until school started at 8 a.m. Sometimes I was the only one in the chapel. I can still smell the rich incense and feel all the feelings of that devout, prayerful time of my youth when I step into the church at Prince of Peace. I am hit with those old memories of deep spiritual silence and meditative prayer that can’t be found in too many places these days.
I like to go into the gift shop and fill up my holy water bottles, buy fresh honey from the on-site beehives, or pick up some incense resin that can only be found in places sacred like this. You can take the Catholic girl out of the church, but you can’t take the Catholic church out of the girl, it seems. I had a rich foundation, and I am grateful to have this sanctuary to bring me back to my roots … and my knees, when I am feeling particularly disconnected and disconcerted.
The pathway offers wildflowers that can rival Borrego in the spring. There is a beautiful gazebo to take a pause and reflect life and literally come to Jesus with yourself as you gaze toward the east and take in the chaparral of the canyons below and the mountain views in the distance.
At the southeast end of the path, there is a large metal cross that can be seen from the 76, and this is the lookout over to the exact longitude as the domed temple at the Rosicrucian fellowship and latitude of the mission San Luis Rey. It’s here that one can feel the most significant pull of the vortex.
I’m taken back to the ancients who must have passed this way on their own quests for enlightenment. These days, you can look up and watch the parachuters coming down from the sky at the airport that is nearby along with the hustle and bustle of the surrounding metropolis that seems so chaotic when viewed from this vantage point. It is a real gem of North County for anyone on a spiritual journey.
When I find myself in times of trouble, I come to this special place to reconnect as so many have done before me, and I think how blessed I am to have so much spirituality around me for the taking. The abbey is just one of the many unique places I’ve discovered, and I’m happy to share with the seeker and reader of this column. I hope you enjoy it when you find yourself there, and that it opens your heart enough to spark the flame that keeps your soul on fire.