Thursday, April 8, 2010

A trip to the Abbey

First of all, I am not and never have been Catholic. I am Protestant to the very core of who I am and as soon as the Baptists create retreat centers like this-I'll so go there instead :) Just kidding. I have always loved the Abbey of Gethsemane. I stumbled upon it mostly by accident and fell madly in love. It's just "my place." I love the people, and the grounds and the beauty of it. It was interesting to go during a time when the Catholic church is under so much scrutiny which I may address at another time, but it's very sad to me-all of it.

The view from my window

The air is different here. The way of life is simpler. The people are kinder. The atmosphere is God soaked and fearless. I always feel like I take deep breaths there and not shallow, must hurry onto the next thing bits of air. I feel like I can think there. I find my prayers are less blah, blah, blah and more intentional encounters with a living God. I stayed at the Thomas Merton Institute this time and it was fabulous. Above was my view every morning. The weather was open the windows at night and sleep like a baby with the breeze perfection.
The main house at the Thomas Merton Retreat Center
The people who run the retreat center are Catholic. They were VERY excited that a priest was staying in one of the cabins and would do mass for them "on site" the next day. "We're very tired. Easter's a big time for us." I thought, "Yes, us too." I would have loved to have been able to spend more time just at the retreat center. So many very interesting people. I was amazed that they have been booked solid for months as people are genuinely stressed to the max. So, I spent Monday night there and then went to the Abbey VERY early the next morning. I love the entrance to the grounds. Everything there is so simple. God alone. Yes. God Alone.

The gate to the monastic areas

It's so quiet there. Tuesday morning I went on a 6 mile hike with some people and the only topic of conversation was kindness. The entire way we learned about kindness to and from God, to each other, and to ourselves. I will do a full post just on that another time. It was so life changing. I thought about it most of the way home and have not stopped thinking about it since.
The walkway to the main chapel
If you are Catholic and go on a retreat here it is suggested that you follow everything exactly as the monks do. If you're Protestant-you can just play along at whatever point you'd like :) So, I did NOT go to prayers at 3:15 a.m. (yikes!), but I did go to the 12:15 prayers after the hike. Something in me is so drawn to the praying of the hours, not because they're scheduled, but because they're anticipated. I know we can and do pray all the time. I know we certainly don't need an appointment to spend time with the Lord. I know. I do. But there's something about knowing you're going to meet with Him at certain times that I think is soothing to the soul.

The Abbey from the Trails

I was struck again at how self sufficient the monastic way of life is. They do not rely on the government or donations to meet their needs. I was in the bookstore there and a lady was asking the clerk if she could donate some money. The clerk said, "Of course you can. We will see that it gets to people in the community in need." Incredible. Everyone has a role and they are performing it to the best of their ability in the name of Jesus. I wonder how our lives would change if we did laundry, did our work and just went about our lives as if every action and every opportunity was ordained by the hand of the Lord who has a plan for our lives. I wonder how our performance would change if we were convinced every action was making a difference for eternity.

The main chapel at the abbey

I spent A LOT of concentrated time with the Lord. The details right now are not important. I may blog about them later. It was good. Really, really, really hard-but good. I'm finding the Refiners fire to be blazing hot lately. I'm a runner by nature so coming face to face with some things is not my idea of a great time. But it was good. And who better to come face to face with than the One who already knows and who loves us in our weakness. My love for Him was renewed in these days. A precious gift.

The gate to the trails where the statues are on display.

The Abbey is so big. It takes over an hour to walk all around it without the trails. I love the cemetary there.

I always feel like the sun dawns with hope at this very spot.
New mercies for sure.

I snuck away Tuesday evening for a few hours and went to Lexington. I went to college there and had just enough time to visit all of my favorite places. I spent an hour at Coffee Times, wandered through Joseph Beth Bookstore and ate a fabulous salad from Whole Foods for dinner. It was such a nice evening and fun to reminisce!
I will blog more about what I learned there and the ways God is working very soon. Until then, it was wonderful. We can never encounter the living God and stay the same. I have no intention to.

The Abbey at night.
Peace for today.


Kathleen Popa said...

This was like a mini-retreat for me. Thank you. Kindness to God. I'd never thought of it that way around, and I love the things it brings to mind. Again, thank you.

Krystal said...

Sounds like a great time. And your pictures are GORGEOUS!