Saturday, October 29, 2011

Some Reassembly Required

I'm back from retreat...and so thankful for the renewal it offered!

You know, some folks think of retreat as a vacation with a little religious icing on top, and that may work out just fine for them.  But I've come to really treasure making a monastic retreat, which is a little more like spiritual least the way I approach it, anyway.

The living arrangements for those making retreat at The Abbey of the Genesee are more than adequate, but very simple: the rooms are small, and so are the beds; the walls are thin, and the mattresses thinner; and then there's shared space for taking care of matters of personal hygiene.  (My years as a summer camp counselor have proven good preparation on this front!)

I'm always amused whenever I return to the abbey by the number of signs which the monks post all over the place.  I guess, given their silent lifestyle, this really should come as no surprise.  My very favorite is the one on the main door, which lets you into the gatehouse of the monastery:

I can assure you that 2:00am is NOT a typo.  And thus it's in the daily schedule where the rubber really meets the road.  My basic routine each day went pretty much like this:

2:00am      Wake
2:25am       Vigils (50 minutes)
5:00am      Wake...again
6:00am      Lauds (35 minutes)
                      Lauds + Mass (M/W/F)
                      Read / Reflect / Nap (?)
11:15am      Sext (15 minutes)
12:00pm    Lunch
                       Read / Reflect / Nap (?)
                       Walk + Rosary
4:00pm      Vespers + Mass (T/T)
4:30pm      Vespers (30 minutes)
5:30pm       Supper
6:40pm      Compline (15 minutes)
8:00pm      Retire

Yes...I did take two naps some days, especially early in the week...but I think that's allowed when you're getting up at 2:00am!

I always do a lot of reading on retreat, and this time was no different.  I re-read Msgr. Michael Heher's, The Lost Art of Walking on Water: Reimagining the Priesthood (2004); with a few more years of experience under my belt since first reading it, it was an inspired choice for me at this time.  I spent a while each day studying the new English translation of the Order of Mass, which will go into use at the end of November.  Closely related, I finished reading Dr. Edward Sri's, A Biblical Walk Through the Mass (2010), which we're now using for a six-week course in the parishes.  I also finished reading the very funny and yet very astute, The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins (2010), by John Zmirak, working my way through sloth, vainglory, envy, and their opposing virtues.  And before bed each night, I read Flannery O'Connor's first novel, Wise Blood (1949), which--bargain shopper that I am--I acquired for next to nothing at a Border's going-out-of-buiness-sale.

I also do a lot of walking on retreat.  The retreat house is 3/4 of a mile from the abbey, so I would walk that round trip a few times a day for some of the daylight liturgies.  There are also many miles of farm roads and recreational trails which cross the vast monastery property, and I like to take a long walk along those in the afternoon.  I was doing 5-7 miles a day altogether...until it was not only raining (which I could have handled), but down in the 30's...which had that rain acting suspiciously know.

Stuck inside, I did have a little "rainy day" project: rosary restoration.  A friend had given me a lovely olive wood rosary from the Holy Land before I headed off to study theology in Rome.  That rosary spend the next--oh--15 years or so in my pocket, visiting all kinds of places with me.  At the beginning of the summer, the cord which held all those beads together was coming perilously close to disintegrating.  Now I certainly have plenty of other rosaries around...but I wasn't ready to let this one go yet.  So I brought along supplies, since I'd finally have time to work on this.  Some of those knots took more than one frustrating patience-building attempt to get right...but I think the thing came out OK for my very first rosary repair.  I wouldn't say it's "like new"...but it wasn't a new rosary I was after.

I guess reassembling that rosary is a good metaphor for retreat: a time to examine the old pieces, and maybe string them together in a new way...which is a project you plan to get to for some time...but it's a matter of setting aside some time to focus on this work and nothing else.  I'm so grateful to the Trappists for giving me a place to put myself allow God to put me back together again.

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