Yo guys, I went on a spiritual retreat a few weekends ago. With a bunch of other moms, and Benedictine monks. It was rad. The whole event was organized by Well Read Mom (definitely check to see if they have any book groups near you…literally the best thing I’ve done for myself as a mom).
It was a full day and a half to restore and renew. I super duper recommend periodic retreats. As moms, we tend to work ourselves crazy, to the point of spiritual bankruptcy even, before we even realize what’s happened to us. We need renewal. Period. How else can we give if we don’t first receive? Put the oxygen mask on you first, ladies.
There was a whole group of us that stayed overnight at the abbey guesthouse on the grounds of St John’s University. The accommodations were spare but super clean and modern. Plus all the rooms overlook beautiful Lake Sagatagan.
If you are at all curious about what monastic life is about, please check out the St John’s Abbey website. There are monks with BLOGS. Maybe I’m a dork, but I’m going to be ALL over this!
The main speaker at the retreat was Elizabeth Kelly, a highly acclaimed Catholic author and spiritual director, and she based three separate talks on The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander. A definite must-read if you’re a Catholic, but also recommended for any Christian lady who’s wondering: “What’s this whole deal with Mary? And how can we apply what we’ve learned about her to our own lives?”
Yay for Liz Kelly, by the way. She held three amazing sessions culminating in a evening of visio divina meditation, AKA: praying with art. You may be familiar with lectio divina, or divine reading, which is the practice of slowly reading a passage of scripture and entering into it in a personal way. The Word of God is so read and meditated upon that it becomes prayer. We can apply the same process to images, “divine looking”, especially to religious icons or art.
Interested in giving it a shot? Here are some basic steps:
1. Prepare by closing your eyes and asking the Holy Spirit to guide your meditation
2. Open your eyes and “read” the image slowly, paying attention to what captures your interest, but continuing to look over the entire image carefully. Close your eyes and allow them to rest.,l
3. Meditation: open your eyes and allow them to be led, savoring the area of the image which had captured your attention. Close your eyes and picture this portion in your mind.
4. Prayer: open your eyes again and rest with the image, allowing the Holy Spirit to give you a word, emotion or name. Close your eyes again and rest in that word/emotion/name.
5. Contemplation: Open your eyes and consider the image once again. Is there anything else from that the Holy Spirit is bringing forward within you?
6. Journal: Write a few lines or sketch a few images that are remaining with you after your prayer. What do you want to take with you from this prayer time?
The morning after doing this visio divina process and discussion with the other ladies present at the retreat, we attending morning prayers with the Benedictine monks. This is a definite must-do. On most days, the monks gather at 7am, noon and 7pm for group prayer, the reading of the gospel and, of course, CHANTING…or the singing of hymns. It is simply incredible to witness a group of men from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and age groups, perfectly joining together in song. They practically breathe together. And then they gave thanks in their prayer intentions for getting the opportunity to “share Christ in the hearts of believers” (AKA, us regular lay people in attendance). Bet you didn’t know that there’s thousands of monks worldwide praying for you on the regular? Well, they are. What really gets me is that they’re so far removed from us and our everyday life circumstances, yet they are continually present in the background of our lives, connecting with us through prayer and relationship with God.
On a final note, since Liz Kelly’s retreat focused so much on the gift of silence and contemplation, and we’re nearly to the Lenten season, I must add this parting tidbit…
Time in silence is a rare commodity once kids enter the picture. But you desperately need it. It’s healing. And love grows in the quiet, slow moments of our lives. Silence creates room for awe. It restores a holy sense of privacy and sacredness. It helps your prayer life grow and allows you to receive as generously as you give. What we accept into us must be good and fulfilling to the soul, yes, but is there space in you to receive it? Maybe coming up on Lent is the perfect time to consider how you might carve out 5 minutes of quiet for yourself. Start small and let it grow.