As many of you know, at least once a year I go to St. Gregory’s Abbey in ThreeRivers, MI, for a few days of retreat. I usually leave Lansing on Sunday afternoon, arriving in time for tea and the 5 pm Vespers service. After the service there is half an hour of silent meditation, and then supper. What is unusual about the Sunday evening meal is that it is the only meal during the week in which the monks and guests can talk and visit. All the rest of the meals are either eaten in silence or with a monk reading from a book chosen by the community. From 7 pm until almost 10 am the next day and every day, the Great Silence takes place. There is no talking permitted. I finish my retreat on Wednesday afternoon, returning home by dinner time.
For me, my time at the Abbey is time to spend in deep prayer and study. I join
the monks for six services a day (I have a hard time thinking about being at the 4
am service!). I work very hard at slowing down, listening, and waiting on the
Lord. It is easier there, as cell phone service is pretty much non-existent unless
you walk a mile up the road, and there is no internet available. The internet ser-
vice the monks have is – are you ready for this? – dial up. I didn’t know that even existed anymore!
There is a large bell in the tower leading into the Abbey Church which is rung
ten minutes prior to every service (yes, including the 4 am service) and again
five minutes prior to all services. St. Benedict told his monks that whenever they
heard the bell they were immediately to stop what they were doing and make
their way to the church. If necessary they were to stop in mid-sentence, lay
aside their book, put down the hoe and gather to pray.
When I first arrive I am coming from a busy world of interstate driving, phones
ringing, meetings to rush off to, and a list of 101 things to accomplish. I arrive
moving internally and externally at an unsustainable speed. My time at the monastery demands that I slow down.
I thought about my need for slowing down a couple of weeks ago. As is usually the case, that day it was busy in the office with the phones ringing, people coming and going, projects to accomplish, working with Edie, Rev. Carol and other leaders of the church. At one point I had to go to the Sacristy for something and off I rushed, down the halls, through the church and into the Sacristy. I grabbed the Red Service Book, blew out of the Sacristy, spent perhaps a millisecond acknowledging our Lord’s presence at the Altar and was going full steam down the side aisle towards the Narthex. And then God spoke!
“What? Can’t you spend at least a minute with me? Can you not honor me as the God of all creation and blessings? Are you really so busy that you cannot properly greet me?” Immediately I was reminded of a quote from Rumer Godden’s novel, In This House of Brede.
Dame Veronica stiffened again. Then words seemed to be wrung from her, not venomous but in despair. “If only you were Mother!” She made a travesty of a bow and left the room. In This House of Brede, page 147
One of the things all of us need to do is slow down and prioritize our lives.
I was made keenly aware of my being guilty of a travesty of a bow to God.
Needless to say, I stopped in mid-step, turned around, and slowly and rever-
ently made my way to the altar rail, where I knelt and properly spent time
We stand at the beginning of a new year. People make resolutions on how
they will make changes and improve their lives. One of the things all of us
need to do is slow down and prioritize our lives.
We are so busy running from here to there, trying to accomplish too much,
not asking for help when needed. Believe it or not, I’ve actually had people
tell me they can’t make it to church regularly because they have too much to
do. Yet, when they have a need that only the church can fill, they suddenly
find the time; to the best of our ability, Rev. Carol and I are there for them.
So take some time and look are what you are doing. Make a list and then
number the items in order of importance. Include such things as reasonable
work hours, family time, church, exercise, rest, and sleep. Science tells us how
important getting eight hours of sleep is, yet the average American only get
five hours of sleep a night! If possible, don’t spend so much time on the com-
puter, Facebook, watching TV, etc. Find and restore balance in your lives, and make sure you are not guilty of performing “a travesty of a bow” to God.
May God bless and keep you this new year and always.
With deepest affection