Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Silent Retreat...

Retreat… It’s a funny word for a religious practice. I have visions of Custer’s “last stand” and the whiff of defeat wafting through the air. No, retreat in a monastery is far from our military images. It is, however, a very intentional pulling back, but not in the heat of some spiritual battle. We pull back from regular life – from the normal patterns of work, rest and prayer to devote ourselves to silence, solitude and the Word.

As many of you know, when I first came to the monastery, silent retreat was NOT my favorite thing. I have grown to love these days – to cherish what they contain and most of all, what they cannot - the illusive moments of grace and illumination. These five days are always a gift to me in some way. The Spirit sees to it.

Our prioress secures our retreat director several years in advance – seriously. These holy ammas and abbas have to be booked like a wedding hall. They are so in demand and, like most monastics, quite conscious about how much time they can actually spend outside their own monastery. This year we had Abbot John Klassen, OSB – 10th abbot of St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, MN.

Abbot John’s focus was the parables of JESUS. In five days we covered all the “biggies” and some obscure stories whose meaning had been lost on me. In nearly every parable, Abbot John showed me something new. For me this is what retreat is all about – sharpening vision. The GOD who knows and loves us intimately is always there…waiting, loving, forgiving. Retreat is an opportunity to get my spiritual eyes checked. I almost always need a new prescription! But the joy of putting those new glasses…and seeing one thing perfectly – just for a few days – this is the grace of retreat.

I am grateful for those silent days – for the absence of the hall pager, the telephone and the TV. I am grateful for the rest which always precedes new insight. I am grateful for the long swims in the summer sunlight and books to devour. I am most grateful for the chance to see my sisters pray and devout themselves to this great thing we do alone/together.

Have you ever been on “retreat?” If not, then maybe it’s time to give it a try. I HIGHLY recommend it.

Blessings and love to you all…

- Sister Vicki