5 Reasons to Take a Silent Retreat at a Monastery

The Monastery of the Holy Spirit

Years ago, I would often retreat to our cabin in the North Georgia Mountains to sit on the front porch to spend time with God. His creation is where I feel closest to Him. My alone time amplified my creativity, and my writing flourished.

After stepping away from teaching again, I felt the need to be alone to sort out my next steps. Several friends spent time at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit and shared how much the experience enriched them. I knew I needed to go.

On my drive home after my retreat, I realized what an incredible experience the last 48 hours had been. I knew I must share 5 reasons to take a silent retreat at a monastery.

1. Silence is golden.

monastery silence is goldenLet’s be honest, there are very few moments of our day that are not consumed with noise (traffic, crying babies, business conversations).

We also inflict much of this noise on ourselves in the form of news, Netflix shows, or streaming music. Most of us believe we need to fill our time with some type of noise. We’ve forgotten the beauty of silence.

I chose to ‘go silent’ for the 48 hours of my retreat. As hard as it was to not talk, the silence was incredibly peaceful. I quite liked the silence.

Silence is indeed golden.

2. Monastic chanting is heavenly.

monastery monks chanting

Monks chanting at another monastery

As a retreatant, the invitation was extended to us to participate in the prayer times and mass services with the monks. Not being of the Catholic faith, I didn’t know what to expect.

The monks began each time of worship by chanting songs from several different books. Noticing I was lost, another retreatant pointed to the correct book so I could follow along. I desperately wanted to read the words as they chanted them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the monks.

Their chanting connected me to God like no other music has ever done. I felt transported to God’s throne. Monastic chanting is truly heavenly.

Brother Mark gave me permission to record the monks chanting. Listen to it here. (There are long breaks between each song. Be patient.)

3. Keep circling in prayer.

monastery walking circles in prayerI reread Mark Batterson’s book The Circle Maker again it in anticipation of my monastery retreat. He describes how important prayer was in reaching his goals. I needed that reminder!

He says, “Drawing prayer circles starts with identifying your Jericho. You’ve got to define the promises God wants for you to stake claim to, the miracles God wants you to believe for, and the dreams God wants you to pursue. Then you need to keep circling until God gives you what He wants and He wills. That’s the goal.”

I have been circling my Jericho in prayer for months, but I wanted to walk circles in prayer on the trail that crossed the front of the monastery’s property. A five mile circle of prayer through that incredible scenery filled me with insight and motivated me.

4. Goal planning is essential.

monastery goal planningGoal planning before a next big step in life is essential. Oftentimes it’s not fun, but it IS essential.

I easily could have sat at my writing desk and made these goals, but this environment provided no distractions and plenty of space for clear thinking.

With big plans in mind for my writing ministry, I knew I needed goals with action steps and deadlines. I found some great scenery and sat until I had clear goals written down that excited me.

A dedicated time of goal planning will pay off. I can’t wait to check off each goal!


5. The wisdom of a monk.

With so much time to contemplate life and their faith, monks gain a great deal of wisdom. Brother Mark and I chatted one night after evening vespers. I was thrilled for the opportunity to gain wisdom from a monk.

His desire to become a monk filled him when he was 14 years old, but a four-year stint in the Navy came first. His parents were not surprised by his calling to the monastery; however, his brother thought he was crazy.

Brother Mark shared, “If monastic life is your calling, the monastery provides for your basic level of needs, which allows space for you to deal with your struggles. It has allowed me to know myself better. I’ve discovered God is beyond our comprehension. ”

When he was 30 years old, he experienced his most special moment with God: “While on a walk with my rosary beads in hand, I was at total peace when I heard a voice ask me how I could be afraid with so much beauty surrounding me. An awareness of how good life really is came over me.”

A few monks don’t continue their calling until death. Brother Mark plans to live and work at the monastery until he passes away.

He was very upfront about what keeps him at the monastery: “My relationship with God is a wrestling match. I’m learning to accept the fact that I’m not in control, I’m in need of healing, and communion with others is important. I’m putting into practice, as best I can, that Scripture is to be lived. I’ll keep learning until my end.”

It was a honor to hear the heart of such a wise man.

Leave a reply (below): Spending a weekend in silence at the monastery blessed me in innumerable ways. As much as I’ve used words in this post to describe my experiences at the monastery, I can honestly say my communion time with God was too profound for words.
“I like the monastic life… in the prayer and the praising… this has charged me with new energy, spiritual energy. This is very important for my ministry outside the monastery.” ~ Pope Theodoros II
If you’re at a cross roads or need some time for refreshing your soul, I encourage you to run to your closest monastery. You will cherish your time there.


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4 Responses to 5 Reasons to Take a Silent Retreat at a Monastery

  • Tracie Shields says:

    I have been needing to do this myself. I have heard how refreshing silence is in our crazy world. Thanks for your insight and recommendation Melony!

  • Amelia Ann Norman says:

    I am so happy for your wonderful experiences while on the Silent Retreat!!! I want now to read the book you mentioned, The Circle Maker, sounds wonderful and foundational! Thanks so much for sharing the 5 reasons and the monks chanting, I enjoyed hearing them, too!!! Maybe I will be able to go one day. I feel closest to God at the beach until then…….

  • Cindi Branch says:

    Wow, pretty profound stuff. Very interesting and intriguing for me to read your words. I have a few questions for you so will ring you up soon. I often feel I STAY at a crossroad and the monastery is not that far away. Your encapsulazation of the time there made me want that experience. Thanks for sharing. Will catch up with you soon!
    (BTW, how did you have a conversation with the monk? Guess it was after
    ‘Silence time’ was over?)

  • Angel says:

    I’m late in responding, but I completely agree with all that you’ve written, Melony! The monastery has become a special place to me. My favorite moments are during the first prayer time…I’m able to take a deep breath and allow the words chanted by the monks fall over me like a blanket. I feel immersed in the word of God. The silence is a welcome retreat in my noisy life. I would encourage anyone and everyone to find their way to the monastery. You will love it.

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Melony Brown I have had numerous opportunities to hear stories about women who have faced life's tough challenges. My writing reflects the lessons I’ve learned from these amazing women.

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