Sunday, March 28, 2010

Keeping a Mary Heart in a Martha World

Last weekend I attended a women's retreat called "Keeping a Mary Heart in a Martha world." The retreat was held at a Catholic retreat center and the other women were all Catholic. (I'm not Catholic, and this provided an interesting learning opportunity for me, though no significant problems.) The retreat was also a silent one - except for the "sessions" (small group discussions), a couple of the meals, and Saturday evening mass.

And the retreat was exactly what I needed; I feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

I was thrilled to learn that the retreat center is rarely used for organized retreats; it's actually a place where adults of any faith can go for peace and reflection. Meaning that (for a suggested donation of $35/night) I can go back, any time, on my own, to recharge. It's only thirty minutes south of St. Louis.

Vision of Peace Hermitages: "Vision of Peace Ministries exists to offer hospitality in a place where people of any faith, seeking solitude in their lives, can find a quiet peacefulness and an atmosphere conducive to private prayer and reflection."

A modest home sits on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. Standing on the back deck, you don't realize that the gentle, grass-covered lumps just before the cliff's edge are the roofs of hermitages, each with a stunning view of the river. Inside each hobbit hole is a single bed, a single desk, a single rocking chair, a kitchenette, and a bathroom. The accommodations are simple, rustic, and adequate. Walking along the railroad tracks, down by the river, through the woods, or along the half-mile gravel path to the main road, there's no pressure to "meet and greet." There's no concern over what to say to a stranger or a friend. In a place of silence, a small smile of acknowledgment is all that's needed.

(People keep asking me if the silence drove me crazy. I loved it! But I figure I must talk waaaaay too much if everyone I know thinks solitude must bug me. Bugs bug me. I dig solitude.)

Inside the main house lives a year-round caretaker. (He's a former monk, very friendly.) There's also a library and chapel open to guests staying in one of the nine single-occupancy hermitages.

My cabin, Holy Wisdom, was the furthest from the river. But my view was still lovely and as I was a little bit off by myself, the accommodations were perfect for me.

I'm afraid I abused the retreat a little. I loved it, participated in all the activities, and followed all the rules. But in my free time I didn't do as much meditating and praying as I was supposed to. Instead, I did a lot of the writerly work I rarely find time to do at home: rereading, editing, and rewriting. And that was just as glorious as the rest of the weekend, though I suspect that everything I wrote before 2009 might suck.

Have you ever been to a place like this? Do you have one near where you live? 


RobMonroe said...

What a neat place! The silence would genuinely drive me insane, but I can dig why it works for others. I have come to learn the value of silence recently, but for that extended period I don't think it would work.

I miss having a place to retreat to - even when I was working at the camp I could find a place to have to myself for a few minutes to get back in focus before going back to craziness. Sadder for me during the spring when I realize how much time I used to spend out in the woods.

Emom said...

How charming this place looks....I bet you feel great just having a break.
There are several places close by that I could try....but I never seem to make the time...I love silence, my life is very busy with noise, low undercurrent of sound nearly constant...smiles.

Sarahlynn said...

Emom, I think you would have fit in with the rest of us at this retreat. :-)

Rob, Paul's thinking about organizing a little retreat at VOP later this year. If you're interested, maybe you could help with the people/hosting parts. (Silence for two days isn't so bad when it's broken up every couple of hours with a workshop or discussion. In between you could just talk to yourself in your room or text like crazy. ;-)

Tracey said...

I've never been to something like this, but I am feeling that it would do me a lot of good right now. I am feeling in need of a disconnection time indeed.

Kathy G said...

Thanks for the information about the hermitage. It's on my list of places I'd like to visit.

I've been on a couple of quiet retreats--not completely silent, but a good deal of solitude. It was wonderfully refreshing.

Sarahlynn said...

Hi, Tracey! It's been a long time. I hope things are going well . . . and that you can squeeze in a little respite. (Book club tonight?)

Kathy, I don't think retreats have to be silent at Vision of Peace - we certainly had some chatty meals with the caretaker. But I agree with you that the solitude in between was very refreshing!

Tracey said...

Hi Sarahlynn! I want so badly to come to book club. I feel like Monday nights are just never going to work consistently for me, darn it. Do you know of any other retreat locations like this, off hand? :)