I'm at a Trappist monastery this week for renewal and refreshment as well as to work on my book. The Abbey of the Genesee is in Upstate NY and just a few miles from where I grew up. It's a restful place and a silent monastery so there is no talking, even over shared meals.
At 1:30pm each day, one of the monks leads a conference in the retreat house library; two-way discussions are permitted then. Yesterday, Father Jerome talked about how hard it is for people to quiet down from their busyness; we are a very restless people. We can't stand to be quiet and alone; our solitude overwhelms us with doubts.
He asked an important question, "What are we running from?"
Fr. Jerome shared that most retreatants to the Abbey show up with two huge suitcases: one packed with books and the other with clothes because they don't know what to wear. He tells them to put both suitcases back in their cars. The dress is casual but appropriate for the Abbey chapel services that occur five times a day from 2:25am to 6:40PM (Vigils, Lauds, Sext, Vespers and Compline).
But what about the books? I love to read and that is what I do when I have "spare time".
Brother Jerome: "Reading is noise, too. You are filling up your head with someone else's words. When you make a retreat here, you have come to fill up your head with God. He needs an empty place to meet you for that conversation."
So, I've come to the Abbey to write, but I've also carved out time to just "be". To sit in silence not worrying about the affairs of the world, but training my ear to hear my shepherd's unique voice.
Just like an Olypmic athlete, I train in the quiet here at the Abbey, so that I can clearly distinguish God's voice among the other noise when I return to the world.
Blessings, my friend,
P.S. Even Monks have a sense of humor! That's Fr. Jerome in both photos!