As you read this, I am preparing to leave for a Trappist monastery—the Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, NY—making my annual retreat. Please be kind to Fr. Norris and Fr. Perreault (my bullpen) while I am away.
The retreat I choose to be on is silent. I speak with others briefly when necessary. The first prayers of the day (Vigils) currently begin at 3:30 AM. The monks chant the psalms each day and rise early to keep watch for the Lord’s return. The first prayers of the day end with: Come, Lord Jesus. The monks work and pray (Ora et Labora) all day long. The schedule is relatively the same every time I am here.
While I miss the daily routine and people of the parish, I realize the importance of making a good retreat. Priests need to be men of prayer and to follow the example of Jesus who frequently distanced himself from the crowds to find time for intimate communication with His Father in prayer. Jesus went into the desert, up the mountain and to the seashore to pray frequently. He would spend entire nights in prayer.
What exactly will happen to me during this week? I am never really sure. I am simply called to listen for the Lord as He speaks, when he speaks. It is ironic that the quieter the atmosphere, the louder the Lord seems to speak to the heart. There is definitely time to read, to pray, to think, to meditate, to rest and to listen. Sometimes I am inspired to write or compose.
From a worldly perspective, people may not see value in what I am doing. However, those who experience the touch of the Lord in their lives usually hunger for more . . . and more . . . and more. At least I do. Being busy all of the time may seem productive, but life without prayer and intimacy with God frequently becomes shallow or even empty in so many ways. Prayer puts things in perspective and refreshes, often inspiring and motivating a person to cooperate more fully with God’s will.
You will be remembered in my prayers and Masses during the week. As you come to mind each day, I will ask the Lord to be gracious to you and to bless you. He certainly knows best what each of us needs the most in our lives.
Please pray for me as I journey into the desert. That is how a monastic retreat is often described—like going into the desert. However, don’t forget that when Christ went out into the desert, He encountered various temptations from Satan. Spiritual warfare continues. Your prayers are much needed and certainly appreciated during this time.
When I return back to the parish, I hope to be able to share with you some insights, thoughts and experiences that were the fruit of this monastic endeavor. I never quite know the outcome. All I can do is watch and wait like the monks, seeking Jesus with my whole heart.
Here we go again!
Fr. Ed Namiotka
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