This week, our community has been on our annual retreat, a time during which the monastery is in silence, a retreat director offers a series of spiritual conferences, and we spend extra time in prayer, spiritual reading, and rest. We cease work to the extent possible except for liturgy, care of the sick, and other vital activities.
For some unknown reason, this retreat has been more restful than any I can recall. Yes, I’ve done a little work, and of course extra prayer, but overall I have spent more sustained periods at rest in my room than I have in a long, long time, much of it simply napping and catching up on sleep. I’ve also sat for long stretches in my rocker, occasionally looking up from my book to contemplate the oaks and magnolia that stand outside my open window. I have been so relaxed, so sleep-saturated, that this has seemed more like a retreat at a luxury hotel than a bit of extra time in my simple room in Joseph Hall with it’s panoply of mix-and-match furniture that we affectionately call “early monastery,” the creaky windows that bang and groan with each strong breeze, the ever-present sounds of construction just outside, and the plain muslin curtains that I rescued from our last yard sale and pull back with cords left from a previous generation of drapes. It has truly felt as if my little room in Joseph Hall has become Hotel Magnolia, at least for this week.
The thing is, though, it is always like this. It is always this nice. I just don’t usually take the time to notice it and to be grateful for the safe, simple room that I call “home” here at the monastery.
By American standards, our rooms would be too simple and plain for most. But for us monastics, for whom simplicity is a basic virtue, it is not only just right, it is more than enough. One of the blessings of this quiet, prayerful week has been the opportunity to take a look around and be grateful for the gifts that surround me on all sides, and to realize that I don’t need Hotel Magnolia, because I have my quiet, simple room in Joseph Hall.
Postscript: Joseph Hall is where I am living during our renovation exodus from Ottilia. I’ll move back into Ottilia after the renovation – and yes, with the same furniture that I’m using now. I’m already scouting to see whether I’ll be able to use my simple muslin curtains that let in such wonderful light!