23 January, 2018 - Silence, simplicity mark monks' annual retreat

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For one week each year, the monks of Gethsemani close the retreat house and suspend fruitcake and fudge production for a retreat of their own. Typically a visiting retreat master will join them, offering reflections twice a day in the chapter room. 2018 01 20 retreat 05 sm

During this year’s retreat, held Jan. 14 through Jan. 21, the retreat house was already closed for repairs. In addition, due to unforeseen circumstances, the scheduled retreat master was unable to participate. But that doesn’t mean the week was just a break from work.

In his opening chapter talk, Dom Elias emphasized that the retreat should “reinvigorate us in the following of Christ” on the community and individual levels.

In the absence of talks from a retreat master, the community’s priests delivered more expanded homilies for Mass, which was celebrated in the evenings to allow for more continuous prayer and reading in the mornings. Many monks did their lectio divina together in the scriptorium during the week, rather than individually in their cells. Throughout, the community strove to practice silence more carefully.

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On the individual level, monks were encouraged to discern what they needed from this time of extra quiet and solitude. For some, that may indeed have meant some rest. For others, it was a chance to simplify. “For all, it is a time of taking stock,” Dom Elias said.

The retreat concluded with a Day of Recollection on Jan. 21, including Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. Refreshed and renewed, the community looks forward to what 2018 will bring.