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.
Let’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.
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.)
I 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.
Goal 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!
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.