The day starts early. The first
service, Vigils, starts at 3:15am. I’m up at 3:00am with enough time
to throw some clothes on and get to the chapel. Service lasts about
30 minutes so by the time I’m back in my room it’s about 3:40 and I
have about an hour before the second service, Lauds, at 5:45am. This
is enough time to shave and wash up properly and spend a little time
in prayer. Directly after Lauds is another service where the
Eucharist is given. I participate in the service but don’t take the
Eucharist because I’m not Catholic. Directly after Eucharist, at
7:00am is breakfast. It’s an all-vegetarian breakfast of oatmeal and
fruits. Trays must be cleared no later than 8:00am. However, the next
service, Terce, starts at 7:30 so I enjoy my breakfast (with a
coffee) but then head back to the chapel. After Terce (about 8:00am)
I have a little time before the 8:30am class. I decide to sit in it.
Let’s just say that I have some doctrinal differences of opinion with
the instructor but it’s a silent retreat so I stay silent. After that
I have plenty of time to read, study, pray, and write in my room.
The second half of the day starts with
the Sext service at 12:15pm with lunch following at 12:30pm. It’s
grilled cheese sandwiches, soup, and various fruits. Trays must be
cleared by 1:00pm. I decide to go for a short hour-long walk in the
woods across the street from the Abbey. They have hundreds of acres
of land to walk around. The bells chime to let me know it’s time to
head back and arrive in time for the next service, None, at 2:15pm.
Yes, it’s a funny name for a service. I now have another large block
of time and I continue to read, study, pray, and write in silence.
The next service is Vespers, at 5:30pm. Right after that, at 6:00pm,
is dinner. More fruits and a little ham which surprised me. Any
vegetarians need not despair however. It’s more of a small side and
than a main course and there is plenty of other items to choose from.
Dinner plates must be cleared by 6:30pm. There is now an hour to do
some silent prayer before the last service of the evening, Compline,
at 7:30pm. Once that’s over I return to my room and my lights are out
by 8:00pm with my alarm set for 3:15am. Early to bed and waaaay too
early to rise.
The schedule for the second day is very
similar except that Lauds is at 6:45am, Terce is at 10:20am, and
Eucharist is at 10:30am. I barely make it to Vigils, return to my
room and fall asleep. I then wake up just in time for Lauds and
breakfast. I decide to go to class again just because I’m curious
what else will be taught. I keep silent again. After the class I meet
up with Tom and David in a talking area and we’d like to walk but
it’s raining. I return to my room and continue with my reading,
studying, praying, and writing.
At 12:15pm I go to the Sext service and
then down to lunch. After lunch I bump into Tom. It’s still raining
but we decide to go for a walk anyway. We enjoy a long walk and talk
and bump into Brian. The three of us then continue our walk and talk
together. If you’re going to go hiking, I suggest bringing a spare
pair of shoes just in case. I didn’t. I return to my room and resume
my reading, studying, praying, and writing. I skip the None service
and just go to Vespers before dinner.
After dinner I return to do more of the
same and I’m grateful for the time I have left. I decided to skip
Compline in order to continue reading. I continued to read, study,
write, and pray until it was time to sleep.
What’s great about staying at
Gethsemani is that your retreat can look very different from mine.
You can go to as few or many of the services or classes as you like.
You can eat or not eat. You can stay locked away in your room the
entire time or spend the whole time out in the woods. You can even
catch up on all your lost sleep for the year and sleep most of your
days away. But I would encourage folks who choose to come for a visit
to spend as much time as they can in the quiet of their rooms in
study and prayer. Before long the weekend is over and it’s back to
the non-stop business of life. The time spent here is a wonderful
break from our fast-paced, loud, hectic lives.