I made it back over to Gethsemani before I left KY. I don't know why I like this place so much - the stillness that permeates everything? I come away changed, knowing the world from a much quieter and simpler place. I love seeing the monks there, living their prayer-lives. Sometimes I wake up in the early morning hours and think of them singing their psalms in the early morning darkness and I know that we are not all going to hell in a hand basket, despite the news. Life is holy. Some day I might have the opportunity to stay here for a week or more.
I had not noticed the new visitors center when I was there last year (Pentecost 2012). I almost skipped it this time as well, but I had to go to the bathroom. If you ignore the gift shop, filled with religious knick knacks and some monks cheese and books, it really is a treat. I was glad that it didn't focus on Merton at all. He was just a monk among many here.
There is a good little film about the Trappist life, and Gethsemani in particular, made by Louisville film maker, Morgan Atkinson. (Check out Morgan's latest film, "Wonder"). In the film the monks acknowledge that their lives are for us.
There is a room with many photos of the monks and quotes from them and others about the nature of contemplative life.
louie blog, if you're interested.)