Tag: silence

a weekend in silence…(cont.)

continued from the previous entry

After my hike on Friday afternoon, the rest of the weekend was filled with pretty much the same stuff.  I did some reading, worked on a couple poems and reflected in silence.  All the while keeping the monastic hours.

The monastic day officially starts at 4:15am with Vigils and ends at approximately 8pm with Compline.  It was surprisingly easy to adjust to this schedule with the relaxed nature of the weekend.  Despite getting up at 4am each day, I woke up refreshed.

I didn’t really come out of the weekend with any answers (though I didn’t really expect to either).  I’m fairly certain that the trappist ideal is not a possible vocation for me.  While I am perfectly comfortable in the silence, I think part of me needs to have a connection to the community at large.  I identified one of the major reasons that it would be difficult for me to ever consider converting to the Roman Catholic church.  It is my belief that mass should be shared with everyone, whether they of a different denomination or even if they aren’t Christians.  If someone wants to come to the table, they should be able to participate fully.

I’ll definitely do something like this again, it was a great way to recharge.

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a weekend in silence…

…or close to it.

Friday morning, October 20th, my friend and I left the apartment building at 5:15 am.  She had graciously agreed to drive me out to Lafayette for my weekend retreat.  The goal was to get there before the beginning of the Lauds at 6:30am.

I was to spending the weekend at Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey.  I had set up the retreat initially to talk to one of the brothers about participating in the Monastic Life Retreat the abbey offers.  However, by the time the weekend rolled around, I knew that this would not be the focus of my weekend after all.

At home I left most of the trappings of my day to day life.  I brought with me only a change of clothes, some books for reading and reflection and my moleskine notebook in which to write (I even left my watch at home).

The abbey itself is located on approximately 1400 acres of land on the west side of the Dundee hills.  This is an area now famous for its numerous world famous vineyards (in fact Sokel Blosser’s vineyards border the east side of the abbey’s land).  The abbey’s land is however largely forested with the exception of some farm land at the base of the hill.  The monks use this land to grow vegetables they use for food.

Back to my story…

After Laud’s (which is actually the second service of the monastic hours), I had to wait until my room was available.  During this time I sat out on the deck of the reception area and read a bit from the collection of poetry by Rumi I had brought with me. Shortly before noon, I was told my room was ready.  The room I would be staying in over the weekend was simple.  A twin bed, a desk and a rocking chair.  Perfect simplicity.

12:30 brought the Sext service.  After which came a silent dinner with other retreatants.  We would be eating a vegetarian diet for the weekend (as the monks themselves do).  After supper I decided to head off to the trails above the abbey’s buildings.  Near the top of the hill there is a shrine to the Lady Guadalupe that made a good goal.   While there were defined trails, they were still not the heavily used trails I was used to.  At times the trail even had a blanket of growth covering it completely.



One of the best things about this short hike, was that I didn’t run into anyone else on the hike.  It was just me and the trees.

More to come later…

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off the grid

Early tomorrow morning (as in 5.15am) I am heading out to Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey for a weekend retreat.  I’m leaving the cell phone, the laptop and the bustle of the city behind.  What I’ll be taking with me, a couple books, my moleskine and an open mind and spirit.  It’ll be a weekend of silence and discernment.

The books I’ll have with me:

  • The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
  • Jesus the Son of Man by Kahlil Gibran
  • The Essential Rumi translated by Coleman Barks

I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say about the weekend when I get back on Sunday!

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Common Ties: Seclusion and prayer on Abbey Road

My friends Elizabeth and James (the ones driving around the US for a travel blog) posted about a great little trappist abbey in Oregon’s Wine Country.  Seclusion and prayer on Abbey Road.  If you click on the link, you’ll be able to view an audio slide show as well.  This is a place that I’ve wanted to do a 30 Day Monastic Retreat at for some time.  I’m hoping to make it work sometime in the near future.  I’ve quoted her text below:

We pull into Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey at 6 a.m., the modest grounds emerging from a thick fog at the edge of the long and desolate Abbey Road in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

It is a black morning, but Father Martinus greets us with a cheery shake of the hands; we find out later that our guide was, and usually is, awake by 2.

The atmosphere on the grounds is deliberately cloistered. Among the monks’ many vows is silence, practiced at various intervals throughout the day. We slip quietly into the church behind Father Martinus and take our seats among the dozen laymen gathered for Mass.

We later learn that the name Trappist is derived from the Cistercian Abbey of La Trappe, whose monks took refuge in Switzerland in the late 1700s when the French Revolution suppressed all religious houses. Trappist monks have for centuries lived by a strict code of poverty and seclusion, as set out by the Rule of St. Benedict.

Here, on the outskirts of the tiny enclave of Carlton, is no different. One by one the monks fill the front of the church, their long white robes glowing in the dim flicker of candlelight. Some of the monks are so old they stand leaning forward, hunchbacked and frail. I wonder how well they can hear the Abbott as he leads the church in Mass. It is a somber scene.

After prayers we meet with Father Martinus and are introduced to a few of the monks. Most are too shy to be interviewed, but Father Martinus can barely contain his enthusiasm; he has been with this order in Carlton since it moved from New Mexico in 1955, and he is delighted to share his home. He is an exceptional storyteller with a gift for vivid scene-setting, and he translates brochures into several languages for the abbey.

Thirty-two monks inhabit this order, down from 60 in 1955. There is also typically a small number of retreatants, who can stay for as short as a day and as long as a month. Brother Paul, a graduate of Notre Dame, is among the youngest in his 30s, and Brother Clarence, who tends to the abbey’s forest, is among the oldest in his 80s. And yet age doesn’t seem to matter here; the men share such fundamental beliefs that they become united through their choices, not their experiences.

The day progresses slowly, a welcome change from the chaos of our last few days in Portland. Throughout the grounds the monks speak in near whispers. Their movements are deliberate. Their schedules are tight. Church bells chime with each passing hour, and the simplicity is disarming. We breathe the clean air deeply.

When we pull away from the monastery at noon, past the 1,000 acres of forest, the sky is a pale gray and flocks of birds form shifting patterns above us. We are only an hour outside of Portland on our first stop of the Pacific Northwest leg of our tour, and already we have happened upon a place that feels worlds away.

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a weekend in retreat (sort of)

the weekend was spent in spokane, staffing the prov 8 young adult & higher ed gathering.  the weekend went off with only a few minor glitches, and everyone seemed to have a good time.  this year’s theme was “turning off the noise” and the gathering was purposefully designed to encourage everyone to listen to the silence.  its not an easy thing…this listening for God in the silence.  my mind often wandered.  especially about what my plans should be for the short term.

my options are this:

First: stay here in portland, at my current job, continue the process, but probably be a little unhappy with my current job.

Second: talk to my friend in LA and see if he needs an assistant for next year.  possibily continue the process in the diocese of oregon, but if need be, start it in LA.

Third: look more into the international mission project from the national church.  possibly go to India or China (or some other place).

The key thing to reconcile with each of these options is my desire to start seminary in the fall of 2007.  Right now I’m really not sure which way I should go.  I need to get a little more information about each of the second two options though.

I have some more decompressing to do on this subject (and the conference), which I’ll have to do later.  My brain is still kinda mushy from the loss of an hour and the drive home yesterday. 

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Practicing Resurrection

So one of the suggestions of my discernment committee was to read the book Practicing Resurrection by Nora Gallagher. I finished the book this morning and there were three passages I bookmarked for further contemplation.

On discernment:

I had thought at the beginning that it would be a matter of looking for signs or listening for voices, not too many steps away from divining tea leaves. But it had become a different matter. It had been as if I were invited into a slow stripping away to expose what lay underneath. Some aspect of myself or a part of the past would rise up, something left unattended and unresolved, to which I’d grown so accustomed I did not see it, like the low-lying tree branch in the backyard I instinctively duck. Often a person would bump into this long-held secret I kept from myself, sometimes by accident or as if by accident, and insist that I take a look.

On monks:

I think they are men who do not expect their faith to end their own suffering.

On exile:

It is typical of exile that it changes you, and when you return, you don’t fit in the way you did before.

As I prepare for the Prov 8 Higher Ed & Young Adult Gathering this weekend, I have really been listening to the silence. I haven’t heard much…but I haven’t been as afraid of the silence either. As I “turn off the noise” this weekend…I will be keeping these three quotes in my head.

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