Monday, June 19, 2017

A Writing Retreat Gone Wrong

I was so excited about a writing retreat at Mepkin Abbey, which is only an hour away from our home. And it is truly a lovely retreat center. However, we had not received a detailed schedule (as I normally do when I register for a conference) but assumed that there will be lectures followed by quiet time to write. However, the retreat was designed with a lot of sharing, so there wasn't much time for writing if one also wanted to join the monks for the liturgy of the hours. One of the monks had addressed this, saying it's hard to do both retreat activities and LOH but I find it's good to spend extra time in prayer while on a retreat. My favorites are Vespers (evening) and Compline (night). I also had a horrible migraine the whole time and couldn't believe that it had lasted as long as it already had -- eight days total. So I was already at the end of my rope before I began the retreat. I wondered why God would make this retreat possible if it was going to be so terrible. What lessons did I need to learn?

I am still processing all of that. But three things are on the forefront. The value and need for silence, for orthodoxy, and for learning to suffer well. I always ask why God allows so much suffering and evil. One of the things I did after returning home was to spend some time with St. John Paul II's Salvifici Doloris. I think the problem of evil and suffering is the most difficult to reconcile with our understanding of an omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient God but JPII is an amazing writer who can clarify this. He writes, "every suffering is an experience of evil." This is so true. But it is our response that matters. We can either be in despair or join it to Christ's redeeming suffering, giving our own some meaning.  

That brings me to the lectures on storytelling, which were very good. The focus was on our personal narrative, how it fits with the larger one, in family, society, the world, and how it relates to the Greatest Story. In a nutshell, we listened to stories on hope, exile, repentance, and home. I couldn't help but think that even within the Church one can be exiled for preserving tradition. Other ideas were on gratitude, honoring our pain, seeing with new eyes, and going forth. It reminded me how important it is to share our personal stories, of how God has worked in our lives. I think I've done that in bits and pieces, but never in a cohesive, structured manner, and this is something I will do.

Here are some pictures from the abbey grounds, where I strolled and prayed the rosary, which is nothing more than pondering the greatest story with Mary.  



This was my room -- light and airy. And here I'd write late at night. But it was sooooo good to come home to my family. In just three days, a little cucumber was ready for picking. And the kitties missed me because they demanded to be petted. Best of all, it was soooo good to celebrate Corpus Christi and Father's Day at Stella Maris. Our priest tied the two celebrations with one word: Presence!    




Faith E. Hough said...

I'm glad you were able to get away for the retreat, but so sorry about the migraines and the less-than-contemplative schedule! And happy feast of Corpus Christi! Our parish had a mile-long procession through the streets of New Haven--it was pretty incredible.

Vijaya said...

Wow! A mile-long procession is nearly unheard of ... we sometimes have a shorter procession from the Cathedral to the small St. Mary church. But I was sad to learn that the number of parishes will be cut in half. Where are the people going? Hmmm, either they're coming down South (parishes are growing here) or the people are losing their faith.

Faith E. Hough said...

Almost all the parishes are merging because of a shortage of priests in this diocese. The church buildings will almost all be kept, which is good...and then if vocations pick up, I suppose they can rethink the parishes.

Mirka Breen said...

Eight days of migraine? I mean, EIGHT days? I've never had a migraine but reading this made me want to scream. I also thought of the book of Job.
Whatever hell is, you've already done it here. I pray for a real healing for you, Vijaya.

The pictures are serene and betray none of your ordeal.

Barbara Etlin said...

I was going to ask about the greenhouse, but then I went back a few posts and found out you have one at home. Nice!

Lovely setting for a retreat.

Today's sunny but the past couple of days, I've been "retreating" indoors, away from severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings (unusual for here).

Vijaya said...

Faith, I'm so glad that they will keep the buildings. I only just learned this year that even the Altar is Christ so I hate the thought of losing the buildings. We always pray for more vocations.

Mirka, thank you for your prayers. I need them. And Job comes to mind often and reminds me to always bless the Lord. He will make all things new.

Barb, I love home retreats the BEST. And the garden isn't in a greenhouse, just fenced in.