The Smile Says It AllLeave a Comment
“But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.” ~1 Timothy 6:11-12 NLT.
Last week, I spent three days at a monastery. I am not Catholic, but a friend of mine told me that monasteries are retreat locations. Obviously, it’s not like a day spa type retreat, but instead a place to rest and refocus on God. It sounded like a cool idea, so I looked to see if my state had one.
I was there for three very short days and two nights. It was definitely not long enough.
Monastery of Christ in the Desert.
I arrived with a friend last Monday. The rooms were small individual living quarters with just a twin bed, desk, wardrobe, nightstand with lamp, and a chair. Each room was the same private space with a locking half door, the kind where you can leave the top part of the door open and the bottom part locked.
We stayed in the guest quarters, which is a five to ten minute walk from the actual chapel but still part of the property. In our rooms, they had a set of bedding, towels, and a laminated card with a lanyard to hang around your neck if you wanted to commit to a vow of silence. If the lanyard was on people knew you were not wanting to talk. You really were only permitted to talk at whisper level and only when not in chapel, your rooms, or in the dinning areas.
The level of silence that was there was purposeful for the environment they were trying to maintain.
Silence was a coveted activity for not just the monks but the guests too.
The first day, for a guest, is just trying to get acclimated to the rules and routines they have. They eat an early breakfast, a weird lunch time, and a really early dinner. In between those times, the monks were constantly serving or worshiping. I have never witnessed such dedication to worshiping God and caring for the needs of others at the same time.
During the day, the monks have a mass first thing at 4am to start their day and then every couple of hours they reconvene in the chapel to sing the Psalms. When you sit inside the chapel to either listen or participate (you are invited to do either), you can feel the presence of God.
When they are not in full worship mode, the monks busy themselves around the property with preplanned tasks. Some monks take care of the livestock, others cook and clean for the guests, there are some who are available for prayer and questions, and they clean up after the guests meals.
One our first day, I saw a monk who didn’t have a silence tag on but was not speaking to anyone. The other monks were giving him directions and he would either shake his head yes or no but he did everything with a sweet smile that lit up the room. He was bald, had a healthy beard, and a healthy midsection. He gave a welcoming smile to me when I entered the chapel. No matter what time of day it was or what things were going on, the smile was just as bright as the first time I saw it.
He was a beautiful example of the love of Christ, without saying a word.
I don’t have to agree with the Catholic faith to agree with the love of Christ that I experienced while with them. These monks displayed more commitment to honoring God then a great deal of Christians I know. They served with an intense amount of dedication and pleasure. I felt welcomed from start to finish. In only three days, I knew it would not be my only trip out there.
The experience was probably one of my top five favorites.
These men were the sweetest example of gentleness of spirit and I learned a lot from their example. They are pursuing righteousness and I am so glad I got to witness it firsthand.
Look for more messages about them in future blog posts, because I definitely have more to share.
Have you ever taken a retreat of this kind?