I spent several days last week on a retreat at St. Meinrad’s Monastery in St. Meinrad, Indiana. It’s an hour west of Louisville and just east of Evansville, Indiana on I-64. We crossed the Ohio river twice, once in Cincinnati and another time in Louisville, KY and traveled through the green rolling hills of southern Indiana to get there. I didn’t realize that Indiana had hills. That part of the state is beautiful and I found out that it is renown for its caves. It was about a three-hour and 40 minute drive from where I live. My husband and my 2 year old, Iliana, dropped me off. Shawn was most gracious by staying with her for a few days while finishing up his grading. I wasn’t sure how she’d do without mommy, or how he’d do with little sleep, but both were fine. The retreat was a birthday present from Shawn.
My eyes and soul were nourished during my stay. I spent a lot of time alone, praying and reading. Twice out of 3 possible times I attended 5:30 a.m. morning prayer –vigils and lauds (praise) with the monks in the Arch Abbey, 1 of 7 Arch Abbeys in the world. The second day I had intended to, but I inadvertenly turned off the volume on my phone, so of course I couldn’t hear the alarm.
I read quite a bit from the writings of Charles De Foucauld, Carlo Carretto, and John Chrysostom. I also finished reading Phantases by George MacDonald (C.S. Lewis’ and J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary mentor). I also spent time talking to the seminarians, those men going to seminary to be Roman Catholic priests. I remember their names and found them most winsome and Christ loving. Our conversations and their demeanor encouraged my soul. Their congregations will be blessed.
I appreciated our unity and our love for the Lord, even though there were some areas, as far as doctrine is concerned, where we politely disagreed. All I have is praise for the monks, the seminarians, and the landscape of that place. Also, for Joan, my very warm and hospitable tour guide. She offered to give me an inside tour even though official tours were on Saturdays, when I wouldn’t be around. Oh and I can’t forget to mention Kathy, the Guest House administrative assistant, whose warmth and helpful information made my stay what it was. She had just finished undergoing radiation for breast cancer after months of chemo. I’ll continue to pray for her.
One of the most encouraging experiences on my retreat was Tuesday morning, May 5th. It was probably 6:45 a.m. after I ate breakfast alone in the guest house. I sat at the breakfast table, peering out the window with a view of the green lawn, tree line, monastery and Arch Abbey. I was gazing at the Abbey’s spires which seemed to poke the sky when all of a sudden, I burst out with a lament to the Lord. I was very sad for my father who is in the throws of mental illness and whose actions resulting from his illness has, sad to say, divided my family. I told the Lord that I was very sad that my family was fractured. The moment I finished uttering my internal prayer of lament , he said to me, “I understand, my family is fractured too.”
I can’t explain it, but the Lord’s crystal clear words to me deeply comforted my soul. And although, if I thought about it, I’d consider it quite obvious that his family is fractured, prior to his words to me, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that he can relate to me in the fractured-family sort of way.
But then his words brought to mind Hebrews 2:17-18, “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
I will remember his words to me and the comfort I received and how in his comforting words to me he again confirmed the truth of Hebrews 2:17-18. Amen.
And I hope this encourages you–if you come from a fractured family, a family that you desire so much good for but for whom the good is slow in coming.
These are some thoughts from 2009.