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One year inside Saint Martin's Abbey

In many ways, the lives of the monks of Saint Martin’s Abbey in Lacey play out like most people would expect. The 30 men — whose average age is 60 — live by a rigid schedule of prayer, worship and singing. They’re highly educated, and most have jobs, many as teachers.

When they share a noontime meal, usually soup, salad and sandwiches, it’s in silence, except for a reading by one member of the order.

Their main job is to serve others, both inside and outside the monastic community. They pray for those who do not pray and for those who can’t.

But those who assume life behind the monastery’s cloister is silent, stress-free and filled with saints are wrong.

A reporter and a photographer who spent a year with the monks found the monks are normal people. They bicker. They play practical jokes. They watch movies. Sometimes, they drink beer. Sometimes, they make mistakes.

“You don’t come here to escape,” said one monk. “You come because you found out this is the best place to work on your salvation.”

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