This is my first post written when I was on a silent retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemane in rural Kentucky, a Trappist Mono monastery and the home of Thomas Merton for all his years as a monk. I wrote the posts while there, but was disconnected from EVERYTHING (which was SO GREAT), and so I am posting them now and over the next few days. I also spent some time reflecting on my 20 year anniversary to the priesthood (December 14).
Retreat 2022 – Abbey of Gethsamane Nov 28 – Dec 2, 2022
Sunday – Monday
I left home around 4pm on Sunday. Had a good first Advent at St. Simon’s, although still wondering where the people, especially families with children, are. Preached one of my favorite sermons and talked about how I am leaving, FINALLY, for this retreat and how much I need it. I think they got it. I had numerous very supportive comments after each service.
Had lunch with Jennifer before I left then hit the road, praying for her for the week as I drove away. It’s close to ten hours to the retreat center so planned to drive as far as I could then find a room for the night. With my lower back problems of the last 9 months or so, I didn’t want to chance a big flareup while away. So I stopped in Huntsville for the night – what a cool city! I was close in a search process here as our Delray Beach time was wrapping up, they ended up calling their interim (a friend of mine)! Who knew such things were possible? Well, every bishop that’s ever said no to me ended up saying “it’s ok now” to someone else. How can I not think it must have something to do with me? Anyway, would have been interesting to have been in this area, seems really nice. But certainly all worked out in wonderful ways for us.
The purpose in stopping was to sleep and to make enough of the distance up so I can get there as soon as possible Monday – best laid plans…
I failed in the sleep department, was up until almost 2am. Monday. Before leaving town for the retreat center in Kentucky, I went to Best Buy to get some cheap bluetooth earbuds as I left mine at home. Scored on that, then hit the road again.
By the way and thanks be to God and Nancy, my miracle worker Physical Therapist, my back is holding up quite well so far.
The trip from Huntsville to the Abbey of Gethsamane should have taken about 4 hours but due to construction on I-65 it took almost 5, and then I lost an hour moving into Eastern time zone. Still rolled into “Monkville” about an hour before supper and got unloaded and settled in. Let the silence begin!
It takes some time to adjust to being here, that’s for sure. We eat meals in silence, so dinner was quiet with some music playing. The monk in charge of retreatants (Guest Master), Father Carlos, has been here 35 years. He is from the Phillipines. On Monday and Tuesday evening at 6:30 he gives a brief talk (retreats are offered for Monday evening to Friday morning and Friday evening to Monday morning). Tonight’s talk was on seeking God. He made some nice points. He recommended always starting with Psalm 139:13 “I will thank you for I am wonderfully made”. Kind of resets us don’t you think? Then he reminded us where to be fed – Jesus says in John 6:35 “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger, whoever believes in me shall never thirst”. Such simple reminders of the truth of God should help recenter us as we seek to listen to God and follow God’s will for us. Fr. Carlos then made this profound statement – “when we make the church our comfort zone we (the church) become just another do good organization. Nothing wrong with doing good, but seeking God should move us from a comfort zone fully into Christ, shifting to THAT comfort zone should not be scary but, well, comfortable and also so much more meaningful.”
Following the talk I attended the 7:30 Compline service. I will have much more to say about the various prayer services the monks participate in (along with any retreatants so inclined) in a later post. After supper, back to my room. The rooms are all private, just a twin bed and desk/chair with a small area for your clothes and your own bathroom with shower. All you need. Despite my lack of sleep I was too wired to get to bed early, and it takes some getting used to to the intense quiet here! It’s so nice and so different. So I wrote this post and made some notes from one of the books I brought, and I prayed. A lot. I brought a directory of my parish and began going through it, praying for each of my folks by name. It was holy time. Then I prayed for my family, for the world, and for God to speak to me this week. More to come…