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Saturday, June 05, 2010

My Weekend at a Monastery: An Open Journal

Three weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to spend the weekend at Prince of Peace Abbey on retreat. Dwayne booked the weekend for me as a Mother's Day gift/ "thank you"-for-supporting-our-family-for-the-last-two-years-while-I've-been-in-graduate-school gift.

Really, I couldn't imagine a better present for me. It was an introvert's oasis.

I texted Dwayne on the first night there. "Checked in, went to Vespers, heard the monk's chant, ate dinner at 6 in the silent dining room, then walked the Way of the Cross Prayer Walk. Wish you were here."

My very extroverted husband wrote back, "Sounds awful!" I knew we were both cracking up in our respective parts of Southern California. He was up in La Verne watching Noelle for the weekend, and I was perched on the top of a hill in Oceanside, the blue roof of the monastery stretching away to the right, and the ocean disappearing over the horizon to the left.

But really, Dwayne's text captured the truth of the weekend more than he realized. The root word of "awful" is after all, "awe" a term we use all the time when we talk about things that are inspiring or sacred. And that was exactly how I was feeling about my first time ever at a monastery.

Here are my journal entries from he weekend:


I am here now. I got my key. My room is tiled floor with cinder block walls, but it is clean and smells welcoming. I am comfortable. One of the monk's knocked on my door this afternoon and showed me how to "turn on" the floors. It's supposed to be cold tomorrow and the floors heat up. Lovely.

What I am looking forward to most this weekend is writing and writing to my heart's content. But I am also looking forward to letting myself just be with God. I hope the two can coexist.

I feel anxious at the thought of unwinding, of going through the weekend and not getting anything done, of the thought of taking the time to sink down.

I think its funny to be anxious of these things. An indicator of the key to which my life has been tightened recently. As the Cantor chanted tonight in Vespers, "O God come to my assistance." And everyone said in reply, "Lord make haste to help me."


Didn't sleep very well first night at the Abbey. I had lots of dreams. Kept waking up expecting to hear the bell for Vigils at 5:30am. It's a comfortable bed and a comfortable room, so that's not why I couldn't sleep. I couldn't sleep because of a restless mind. It was like my brain was on hyper drive.

Jackie's words (My Spiritual Director), keep coming back to me: "it will take a while to unwind."

There is no TV, no internet here and it's freeing. I have plenty to do just with the writing and the prayers. I'll go to Holy Mass at 11am. Last night, as I was unwinding, TV shows kept popping into my head. It feels like junk to me now, not entertainment, like things to pull out of my mind so that I can relax. I feel lighter here. It feels like my soul is drinking up water. Getting refilled.

I'm starting to rethink the way we do things at home. I don't want Noelle's head to be full of junk. I want her to know homeostasis, ground zero, the quiet place.


Just got back from Holy Mass. Incredibly intimate. I was the only one there who did not know when to bow, stand, cross herself. In some ways I felt I was intruding on a deeply personal experience for all there. The Priest (Friar? Not sure what he's called) spoke and I was struck by how his messaged centered on Jesus, alone. So many sermons in the Evangelical churches I've visited focus on Christian living. There is a difference between those two sermons: Christ vs Christian living.

This message today lasted about 10 minutes and soothed my soul. It focussed my eyes back to Jesus the Risen Lord. There was much talk about peace. At the end we turned to one another and said, "Peace be with you." People kissed each other and shook hands. I needed that. Need personal peace right now. Beautiful.

I did not take communion as I already knew, thanks to Kristen Sipper (a friend from work who is a devout Catholic), they will not serve anyone who doesn't believe in transubstantiation. Kristen likes to joke that she's a vegetarian, except on Sunday when she eats Christ's flesh.

It occurred to me as I was watching them prepare the wine and bread that every day these monks, and believers sitting in the pews, witness a miracle. A true blood and body, tangible miracle and everyday they ingest that miracle.

What an amazing way to stay physically connected to your faith, to carry it not just in your mind and heart but in your body as well.


Time spent writing over the weekend:


5pm: Vespers
6pm Dinner
6:30 - 7:00 Way of the Cross Prayer Walk
7:30 - 10:00 Wrote
10:00 Bed

7 am Wake-up and shower
7:30 Breakfast
8 - 10:45 Wrote
11 Holy Mass
12 Lunch
12:30 Texted Dwayne
1 - 2:30 Took a Nap
2:30 - 5 Wrote
5 Vespers
6 Dinner
6:30 - 7 Way of the Cross Prayer Walk
7:30 - 10 Wrote
10:30 - 1 am Read (_The Possibility of Everything_ by Hope Edelman)

Total Hours spent writing: 10!!


Blogger Amanda said...

I love Dwayne's reaction to your day. He says the words I think and then feel guilty about later. :)

I'm so glad you had a peaceful visit!

6:52 PM  
Blogger Anne Liu Kellor said...

"I don't want Noelle's head to be full of junk. I want her to know homeostasis, ground zero, the quiet place." Love this, Christin. Sounds like a wonderful few days.

6:25 PM  

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