Monday, January 19, 2015

Weston Priory

Since it is a long weekend because of the Martin Luther King holiday, I retreated to Weston Priory in Vermont with the Benedictine Monks. The place is only three hours from Boston, but it certainly is a different universe. Mountains prohibit mobile signals to connect phones to one another so the sense of isolation from one’s daily world is abrupt. However, the place affords that thin space where God’s presence seems more palpable.

It is only 7:00 p.m. but the pressing darkness makes it a challenge to keep my eyes open. I want to sleep. A nearby cottage behind the one I am in shines a soft beacon of light, but the view before me as I face the mountainside is devoid of electrical lighting. Silence presses upon me as the darkness does. I want to sleep, but I go outside refreshed by the 20-degree air that makes me appreciate the warmth of my temporary abode. The dazzle of the stars lets me know there is great activity in the pervading stillness. I am aware of nature’s eyes gazing upon me as I stand in the midst of the still forest.

Compline begins in less than an hour. I wonder if I’ll make it there or whether I’ll be fast asleep. I brought three books, some work, four painting canvasses, and much to read as I’m blessed with abundant spare time, but sleep beckons.  

Update: Compline was beautiful. It is always my favorite service as it entrust our rest to the Lord’s care. At the start, I felt so sad for the brothers. One hobbled out with a cane, another advanced with a walker. The other twelve are healthy but they are aging noticeably. However, the songs were familiar and consoling. While it is not a form of music that I would often want to hear during liturgy, it has remained constant over the years. I know the monks produced records in the 60’s and 70’s and have maintained these psalmodies throughout the next decades. In the end, it lead me to consoling prayer.

Update 2: Meals with the brothers were special. You can tell from the way they relate to one another that they respect and honor each other and their guests. I was not expecting to enjoy my time with them so much and I wanted to give them space because it is a challenge to always have open hospitality for guests. Sometimes the community needs quiet times and spaces.

Five of the brothers are priests. They were diocesan priests before they became monks. I was surprised that that singing and worship appealed to me so much this time. It was very Christocentric. I happily attended each liturgy because it gave so much glory to God.

I helped the brothers clean a bit and we had nice conversations after the meals. We enjoyed one another and they were incredibly kind and gentle. As I left, I prayed for them in their difficult journey of faith. On Sunday, they leave for Mexico for  a month to commune with the Benedictine sisters.

I am always reminded of how good it is to get away from the busyness of life. Even though I just ended a sabbatical, it was full and I needed time to make an adjustment in time. I feel like I stepped off a musical carousel and I’m not ready to get back on. Ministry feels more about being than doing – a nice shift in my way of thinking.

The mountains, sunsets, stars, and the forest noises return us to nature to a place of greater harmony.

Finally, I stopped at the Vermont Country Store and I bought a Bozo the Clown punching bag. My eldest sibling, Dawn Mari, who had profound mental retardation would always receive a punching bag like this at Christmas. I bought one for my mother so she may keep memories of Dawn Mari alive.

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