Do you nurture your spiritual life with prayer and silent waiting and with regular study of the Bible and other devotional literature? (New England Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice) About two weeks ago, I spent a night at the Episcopal Monastery in Cambridge that is part of the Society of St. John the Evangelist. This was some time I was able to get off as part of Continuing Ed for my job at the church. The food was delicious, the people running the retreat center were so kind, and I feel so lucky to live so close to SSJE.
This past weekend, I went on another retreat. This retreat I had been planning for the past 6 months. My mother grew up in Spencer, MA and as a child visited the Spencer Abby of St. Jospeh where Trappist Monks live and work. They make the Trappist Jam that you can get around Boston and they just opened a Brewery which will be in operation soon. Once a month, their retreat house welcomes women to stay either for a weekend retreat or for a 4 day week-day retreat. You have to call six months in advance to get a slot, though cancellations do happen and sometimes you can get in earlier.
The retreat was lovely. While I did try to do way too much: including getting up at 3:30am for morning prayers on Saturday... after rearranging my to-do list and distributing writing projects and committee work for later in the week, I did find time to rest, to pray, and to read scripture. At St. Joseph's Abby, the monks pray in the church at least six times each day. There were times when I felt like I had only a few moments in my room between prayer, dinner and then another time of prayer.
One of the lovely things though about getting up early for prayer and cycling through my day in constant thought of the readings and psalms that were shared in worship, was the stillness that this motion generated. There were all sorts of moments when I would look out my window and notice the subtle changes from the last time I did the same. One piece of scripture or sermon or reading would flow into another and I would think "where did I hear that?" and the pieces would fit together.
I feel though that the retreat wasn't quite long enough. I was able to busy myself enough the first half of the retreat to escape from relaxing and then in the second half the retreat I reached boredom where I fought the urges to relax and the urges to be anxious about everything I wasn't doing. When I got home last night I was exhausted. A day or more may had brought me to a better place of release, rest and renewal.
In general, I have a lot to think about right now, and these retreat opportunities have been blessings. I have so much to be thankful for and I have some leadings to tend to over the next few months. I pray that as I now return today to work and to the rest of my life, I can keep the concept of retreat close to my heart. I don't think I'll be able to get up at 3am for morning prayers on my own, but I'm already finding ways to bring prayer, worship, and spiritual readings into my days in little and meaningful ways.