Tomorrow morning I leave for a brief retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Kentucky. While it is home to 40 Trappist monks, there is also space for people to come and find peace. Until a year and a half ago, I didn’t know the abbey existed, but in the span of one year, two people who have no connection to one another (one being a complete stranger) told me that I should go. Unsolicited, they said go. I’d been yearning for somewhere to go, but time and money being the ultimate barriers prevented me from booking some cottage on the beach or cabin in the mountains. I never looked elsewhere.
And then, there came the abbey.
The original plan was to go alone, but the more I thought about it the more I wanted a companion, someone to share the experience with me in a similar way. First and foremost, it had to be someone who would appreciate the silent, sacred space. Second, it had to be someone who I’d want to be in a car with for the drive there and back. There was only one person who came to mind, so if she said no, I would go alone. Happily, Annette said yes. She and I will leave around sunrise on Friday morning. We’ll check into the abbey before lunch time and then we’ll part ways. Since neither of us knows what to expect, we are going in with open eyes and minds.
Matthew 11:28 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
For me, the goal of the retreat is two-fold. First, I want to finish my second book. I’ve been knee-deep in freelance work that I haven’t given it attention since May. It’s time to finish it, so that’s my primary goal. The secondary goal is rest. Just rest. I want to sleep, calm my brain and body, and just be. Even as I type these sentences, my entire torso is rigid and tense. I am as high-strung as a fiddle, so I’m going to a monastery to see if that will help me relax.
Finally, since symmetry begs a third thing to list here, I am intrigued to experience a new level of theology, an alternative view of faith. Though I am Protestant, I’m open and interested in all the ways people experience God. Why not step inside the faithful lives of Trappist monks, men who actually left the world behind to follow Christ and Christ alone? As retreatants, we can attend their services – all eight of them – and even participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), if we so choose. It would do nothing for me to be only a spectator. Instead, I hope to gently, respectfully dip my toe in their place of worship and receive whatever blessing comes my way.
When I come home, my hope is to hang on to whatever level of peace I’ve acquired and dwell in that space for as long as possible. And while I will share my experience here on the blog when I get back, I’m going to stay offline for the rest of the week.
See you in August.