Life in Community: Making a Spiritual Retreat

Over the past four months, I’ve had the opportunity to enter into life together with a delightful variety of Christian faith communities, each offering me the gift of welcome, rest, renewal, study, and worship of God together through Jesus Christ. Here’s a list of places where I’ve been on retreat over the past four months, with brief information about each community.

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July 17-19      Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey, near Lafayette, Oregon. Begun in 1948 in Pecos, New Mexico, the Trappists monks moved in 1955 to their present 1300 acre property, located two miles north of Lafayette, Oregon, about 30 miles southwest of Portland, Oregon. Today, there two dozen monks who make this abbey their home. They are affiliated with the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.), also known as Trappists, the same order of Thomas Merton. I made my first monastic retreat to this same abbey back in October 1986. On my prayer retreat this year in 2015, I stayed in the St. Benedict room.

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July 20-23      Mount Angel Benedictine Abbey, Mount Angel, Oregon. Founded in 1882 as a daughter Abbey to the Benedictine Abbey in Engleberg, Switzerland, today Mount Angel Abbey is home to more than 50 monks, and over 600 Benedictine Oblates (non-monastics who seek to live according to the spiritual principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Rule of St. Benedict). I became a Benedictine Oblate of Mount Angel Abbey in February 2006, and make several annual prayer/study retreats there every year. The Abbey is also home to Mount Angel Seminary and a beautiful library facility designed by the great Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto. The bell tower features the largest free swinging bells on the west coast of the United States.

IMG_5930Aug. 17-20     Northumbria Community, near Felton, Northumbria, U.K. See my blog post about The Northumbria Community (http://vinea.church/northumbria-community-united-kingdom/) This community was formed in 1990 from two previous Christian communities. Their beautiful retreat facility, Nether Springs, is located at Acton Farm, a working farm in rural Northumbria, with a lovely view eastward to the sea. While at Nether Springs, we stayed in the St. Aidan room, and enjoyed meals together with other retreatants. They also have a lovely library, garden spaces, and chapel. We began our 50 mile walking pilgrimage to Lindisfarne from Nether Springs Retreat Center after spending a delightful four days with this community, including four times of daily prayers together.

IMG_7370Aug. 24-30     Community of Aidan and Hilda, Holy Isle of Lindisfarne, U.K. See my blog post about the Community of Aidan and Hilda (http://vinea.church/the-community-of-aidan-and-hilda/). Founded in 1994 by Ray Simpson and a few others, The Community of Aidan and Hilda is a worldwide fellowship who live by what they call a Way of Life. This Christian community draws inspiration from Celtic saints, such as Aidan (d. 651) and Hilda (614–680). They seek to renew the Church by inspiring Christians and seekers alike to look for “a fresh way of living an age-old faith.” I participated in a four day retreat on the lives of Aidan and Hilda, held on Holy Isle of Lindisfarne, at this community, a retreat led by founder, Ray Simpson.

IMG_9277-750x500Sept. 7-11      Benedictine Abbey of St. Hildegard, near Rudesheim, Germany. See my blog post (http://vinea.church/life-at-st-hildegard-benedictine-abbey/) on this community. This abbey was built in 1900 near the site of a medieval abbey founded by St. Hildegard in 1165. We had visited this abbey in 2008, but in 2015, we came to stay for a five day study/prayer retreat. Today, this abbey is home to over 50 nuns, who support themselves by cultivating their vineyards, making wine, running a beautiful gift shop among other cottage industries. We enjoyed several daily times of worship together with the sisters at this Abbey.

IMG_0751-750x500Sept. 14-16    Taize Community, Taize, France. See my blog post (http://vinea.church/bernard-of-clairvaux-and-brother-roger-of-taize/) on St. Bernard and Brother Roger, founder of the Taize Community 75 years ago in 1949. 2015 is the 100th anniversary of Brother Roger’s birth, the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Taize Community in 1949, and the tenth year since Brother Roger was killed by a mentally ill person during a Sunday morning service of worship at Taize. Our first pilgrimage to Taize, in September, 2005, was just weeks after this tragic event. “Coming to Taize means being welcomed by a community that has been inspired by two aims: to seek communion with God through prayer and to be a leaven of peace and trust in the midst of the human family. Through common prayer, singing, silence and personal meditation, a stay in Taize can help us rediscover the presence of God in our lives and an inner peace, a reason for living or new impetus.” (from Taize brochure handed to us when we were first welcomed into the community). We worshiped together three times daily, with over 100 monks and about 400 other pilgrims.

St. Anthony's Guesthouse where we stayed

Oct. 11-17      Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement, Assisi, Italy. We stayed for a full-week at the St. Anthony Guesthouse run by the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement, in Assisi, Italy. For more on this community of faith, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society_of_the_Atonement and their official website at http://www.graymoor.org/. This ecumenical Christian order was founded by Anglicans in USA in 1898, and was formally welcomed into the Roman Catholic Church in 1909. We booked our stay at St. Anthony Guesthouse through the website, www.monasterystays.com an online booking service for monastic guest houses in Italy. While at this guesthouse, we enjoyed meeting other fellow retreatants, including a pilgrimage group of English Protestant Anglican 3rd Order Franciscans. We worshiped in the beautiful little chapel at St. Anthony’s together with these Anglican pilgrims.

9510645_origOct. 26-30      Queen of Angels Monastery, Mount Angel, Oregon. Several years ago, I led a retreat at this monastery for their Benedictine Oblates. My return in 2015 was a time of refreshment and renewal after three months of sabbatical pilgrimage across Europe. I enjoyed worshiping twice a day with these sisters. This monastery was founded in 1882, and now is home to nearly 40 sisters. For more information on Queen of Angels Monastery, go to their website at http://www.benedictine-srs.com/. Anyone can make a spiritual retreat at this monastery. Simply contact the sisters via the phone/email contact information on their website. They also feature seasonal spiritual retreats on themes and different aspects of our shared life in Christ.

If you’ve read this far, I encourage you to consider making a spiritual retreat sometime in the near future. Contact a monastery or spiritual retreat center to find out how to book several days. I recommend getting away for 24 hours at minimum, but several days is better. I’ve always needed a few days to shift my inner cycle into a more relaxed rhythm of worship, study, eat, rest, read, sleep. Come away and find rest for your soul, as Psalm 62:1 sings, “my soul finds rest in God alone.” IMG_7168