Day TWO Part TWO of my silent retreat

As I said, Monday evening it all begins (the retreat and silence officially starts with supper at 6pm. Yes we eat in total silence, with a little music playing in the background. Last time I was here (2011), they played recordings of their famous monk, Thomas Merton, instructing new classes of monk novices. They have stopped that practrice as some retreatants found it annoying.) I spent time figuring out a book or two of the dozen I brought to focus on, some Brugemann, some Eugene Peterson, a few others. I finally attempted to sleep around 11 but it took a while. I had intended to rise for Vigils at 3:15, and the bell which announces every service woke me, but I decided to doze another couple of hours. So on Wednesday I plan to attend most if not all of the 7 divine hours plus Eucharist. I did make it to Terce post breakfast today (Tuesday).
After the prayers I walked a little outside – it’s a tad brisk here. But the sunrise was so beautiful. This part of Kentucky is quite pretty, rolling hills, lots of trees just past their fall colors. Seeing high hills is a different view for sure for a Florida panhandle guy! Today’s schedule will include a walk across the street on the large expanse of acreage (about 1500 acres) the monastery has. There are a couple of sets of statues I want to see, entitled The Garden of Gethsemene, one set of which was donated as a memorial to Episcopal Saint and Martyr, Jonathan Daniels, who is honored every August with a pilgrimage to Haneyville, Alabama where he, as an Episcopal seminarian, was shot and killed protecting a 12 year old girl from racial violence after he had been jailed for supporting voting rights for black citizens in Alabama. The Reverend Bob Graves, a priest of our diocese and dear friend, was a seminary classmate of Daniels.

I am reading my hero, Eugene Peterson’s, memoir “A Pastor”. As he was learning how to be a pastor, he reflected on life lessons from growing up in Montana, including an encounter with a Native American woman named Prettyfeather. The story is too long to recall here, just wanted the following quote to have some context. The process to becoming a “pastor” is different for everyone, but he speaks some truths I need to hear. Here is a quote from Peterson:

” People talk about steep learning curves. I was embarked on a steep unlearning curve. It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened. Prettyfeather gave me the story that provided a text for the extensive unlearning before me, the unlearning that was necessary to clear the ground for learning that God at work—not I—was the center of the way I was going to be living for the rest of my life. Inappropriate, anxiety-driven, fear-driven work would only interfere with and distract from what God was already doing. My “work” assignment was to pay more attention to what God does than what I do, and then to find, and guide others to find, the daily, weekly, yearly rhythms that would get this awareness into our bones. Holy Saturday for a start. And then Sabbath keeping. Staying in touch with people in despair, knowing them by name, and waiting for resurrection.”

Wow. Anxiety driven, fear driven work would only interfere with and distract from what God was already doing.
In some ways I think Covid put us more directly into anxiety and fear driven work. The constant push and pull to “program our way out of this”, to go back and “do those things we always used to do” is so strong. I really don’t want to be the chief programmer of an organization. But also, what is my role in saying no, that’s not why we are here or what God is calling us to do and be, no matter how comfortable it may seem, how reassuring if everything will just go back to “normal”, which as I learned post-Katrina, normal is just a setting on a washing machine?

5 thoughts on “Day TWO Part TWO of my silent retreat”

  1. I feel a happiness for the journey you have described. What Joy you must have experienced to write to us as you have.

  2. The idea of resisting the urge to rush backwards, trying to reclaim what was, resonates with me. Going forward is our only real option and it will likely take some patience and waiting to see the possibilities. I’m looking forward to hearing about your thoughts through the rest of your retreat.

  3. The Church is being called to change….to go to a higher level as if ascending a staircase to the Bridegroom…rather than descending a staircase. The Spirit is being called to stand guard at the sanctuary as the Church prepares for this special union. Too many parishioners are returning to a building to idolize the building and its profound beauty, failing to understand worship is more than those things that once made us “feel” like we were worshipping. As the physical walls diminish in importance, the relationship with Christ can increase and grow. It will transcend the walls. It must.

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