This week I am doing another Benedictine Experience Retreat, this time at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, MN. Our group of 10 people is staying at the Episcopal House of Prayer, an ecumenical retreat center on the grounds of St. John's Abbey. We are just off a quiet road, nestled in the woods, and about a 20 minute walk from the Abbey Church. The weather is beautiful, with just a hint of the autumn colors to come. Each day we live the Benedictine rhythm of Morning Prayer at the Abbey (7 a.m.) Eucharist here in the Oratory of the House of Prayer (11:30 a.m.), Evensong at the Abbey (7 p.m.) and Compline (here at 9 p.m). We also have talks given by monks of the Abbey and the Rev. WArd Bauman, our "abbot" and chaplain of the House of Prayer. Tomorrow we will go over to St. Benedict's, where the Benedictine sisters live, for a talk, noon prayer and lunch.
Today is our "Desert Day", mostly spent in silence, with little of the regular structure and rhythm. It is a time for quiet reading (lectio divina), prayer and, most of all, listening to God. I am not good at sitting still, so I do a lot of prayer and meditation while walking with my guide dog, "Lorelle". I also spent some time on campus this morning gathering some books for further reading and hope to spend some time in prayer at the Abbey Church or the Oratory here this afternoon. Our silence extends through dinner and evening tonight until after breakfast tomorrow morning. Then we will go back to our daily rhythm of prayer, study and work.
This is a grace-filled time! No meetings, no street noise, no TV, no phone calls (almost), very few emails and no liturgical or other responsibilities. It is a time apart, yet with many people and places on my heart and in my prayers. There is no escaping the world; only redirecting our attention, thoughts and prayers to God. But that is the gift of being in the beauty of nature and in silence--to be able to hear the natural sounds and allow the sun's light to filter through the shadows of the trees and to be supported by a little week-long community of Beneditines wanting to find and be found by God.