Melleray Latin Academy 2014 — it’s our second summer of free enrichment in heritage skills and languages for local high schoolers.
For those just joining in, we are Piedmont Pine Coffins, a company that makes green burial coffins and helps families reclaim the right to care for our own dead. We are based at Melleray Farmstead in NC, a 32-acre off-grid piedmont parcel with beautiful fields, creeks, and woods.
Some of our inspiration for the structure of things — both the farmstead and the business — comes from monks and monasteries, the Benedictine tradition in particular. The Benedictines, at different times in their 1500-year history, have fluctuated, for their charism, between the poles of active and contemplative. Some “flavors” of Benedictines have founded schools and hospitals, where others have favored strict solitude and quiet. Whether active or contemplative, however, all Benedictines, and most monks throughout history, for that matter, have held hospitality as a core value.
Here, we’re more on the active side. With two young kids and multiple modes of commerce happening here at the farmstead, you could say that Piedmont Pine Coffins and its cottage industrial home, Melleray Farmstead, are about as far from contemplation as you can get. Still, we offer Melleray Latin Academy as a gesture of active engagement with our surrounding community and as an expression of our “monastic” hospitality.
A monastic curriculum
The curriculum of Melleray Latin Academy is pretty monastic, too: Greek and Latin and heritage farmstead skills. There are two points here:
- One, that monks in Benedict’s tradition were instructed to live by the labor of their own hands. This should call to mind the monastic bread, beer and cheese that supports monasteries to this day.
- Two, that Christian monks during the so-called Dark Ages preserved Greek and Latin texts from Classical antiquity by copying them in monastic scriptoria.
The intent of the Melleray Latin Academy, then, is to demonstrate to young people, in a charismatic way, the value of manual labor and the Classics. Part Tom Sawyer and part Thomas Merton. This past summer we hosted four young men from grades 7-10 (David, Josue, Jonathan, and Ivan) twice a week from mid-July to mid-August. It was a real pleasure.