2017 Advent Retreat at St. Joseph’s Abbey (Updated)

St. Joseph’s Abbey“Open your eyes, then, and your heart, in an undisturbed solitude with God alone. Be still, and see what he is offering you, what he is to you.” – A Carthusian, The Prayer of Love and Silence

“He was a monk. As demands brought him far from the enclosure, wherever he may have been he remained constant in his monastic observance and his discipline…the monk never stands alone but lives under a Rule, in a particular place alongside others. As Francis grew in deeper communion with his brothers in monastic life, he saw in each and every one he met beyond the walls a brother, a sister. And he saw each place in which they stood, every world from which they came, a precinct of epiphany.” – Lovers of the Place: Monasticism Loose in the Church

I took three books with me on this retreat. The first was 7 Secrets of the Eucharist by Vinny Flynn. The other two were The Prayer of Love and Silence and Abandoned to Divine Providence. The last two I “found” in the Abbey Bookstore on previous retreats. The Prayer of Love and Silence has become a source of almost daily inspiration/reflection.

It started snowing on Saturday morning and didn’t stop until Compline. During meals we listened to Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri J.M. Nouwen. It’s the story of how J.M. Nouwen found his place (and purpose) from deep reflection on the Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt¹.

On Saturday afternoon, I drove my lil’ car to the Abbey Bookstore after conference with the “incident of 15” loosed in memory by the rapidly accumulating snow. But my trip was justly rewarded with a “find” called Lovers of the Place: Monasticism Loose in the Church by Francis Kline. I’ve just started it but already there are links to 7 Secrets of the Eucharist and The Prayer of Love and Silence. Also, it begins with a quote from Thomas Merton (and a reference to Bermuda and London).

“I shall lead you into the high places of my joy and you shall die in Me and find all things in My mercy which has created you for this end and brought you from Prades to Bermuda to St. Antonin to Oakham to London to Cambridge to Rome to New York to Columbia to Corpus Christi to St. Bonaventure to the Cistercian Abbey of the poor men who labor in Gethsemani: ‘That you may become the brother of God and learn to know the Christ of the burnt men.'”

Sunday mass was beautiful and it was imbued with a newness (as if that was possible) having finished 7 Secrets of the Eucharist the day before. I also always listen (be still) for themes on these retreats and Eucharistic Adoration kept drifting into my meditations. I’m going to find a local church/chapel so I can participate more fully in the paschal mystery. The other emerging theme was place/purpose (something that has always fascinated me). During the conference, Father Peter asked each of the retreatant(s) what our purpose was, and that certainly elicited some interesting responses from the attendees.

Pre-Reading
(1) In Search of Silence (NY Times)

“‘I’m not recommending people move into a monastery,’ he said. ‘We’re social beings. But in the silence, you meet yourself.'”

(2) Johnny Carson Craved Time Alone So Much His $80 Million Home Had Only 1 Bedroom. Did That Mean He Was Smarter Than Most People? (INC.)

Post-Reading
(1) 10 Ways to Prepare Well for Christmas
(2) Galatians 5:22, Isaiah 21:6-9, and Ephesians 6:10-17
(3) Bishop Barron on the Mass (YouTube)

¹I’m a little troubled that my reaction to The Fighting Temeraire by J.M.W. Turner was a seed crystal similar to Henri J.M. Nouwen.

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