Our community asks each sister make at least a week of retreat once a year. To support the sisters in doing this, two conference retreats are held each year at the monastery. This week Br. Benet from Blue Cloud Abbey is guiding us through a retreat based on the stories of Benedict from the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great. If you know of Br. Benet, these ancient tales are supplemented with those he has gathered from his own con-friars, other Benedictine's and religious, family, and friends...the stories all center around a particular teaching or idea for each conference.
Outside of the conferences, I am enjoying the freedom to sit in the silence, read from the Dialogues, pray, and be with the Lord. Unfortunately, the heat wave has created temperatures of over 110 degrees (with humidity) and praying outside has become close to impossible (I wilt easily). So I have found a variety of quiet places about the monastery...of course I use my cell (monastic bedroom) but no pictures of that : )
Up in our choir loft of Bishop Martin Marty Chapel, there is a lattice wall of windows depicting the various works and prayers of our sisters. I love to sit on the cool floor and, leaning into the sandstone walls, stare up at our history in glass. These two remind my of my own ministry to teaching and studying. Each time I go up to the loft, I notice something new in this stained artwork...it is an awesome place for quiet reflection on our lives here in the Dakotas.
This side chapel to Our Lady of Einsiedeln is also our chapel for the Reserved Sacrament. Opposite this altar is a series of stained glass windows dedicated to Mary; usually the lights aren't on (except for the tabernacle candle), and the colors from her window spill down on any sister who is sitting in the pews before her. The quiet of this monument to our Swiss heritage is occasionally broken as a sister comes into chapel, bows, and continues on her way into the church. Those small breaks in the solitude are a loving reminder of why I'm here.
The Peace Chapel, aka the lower chapel or student chapel, has two more of my favorite places to pray on these hot summer days. This niche was once used for storage! The gate is original so I have no idea what it was before that! Now, it holds an icon of Mary of the Disappeared, the Crucifix with a red drape, and a chair with prie dieu. It is a place to consider the wider world and pray for the needs of those in sorrow.
The Peace Chapel's space for the Reservation of the Sacrament is designed for quiet reflection and contemplation. The stained glass windows to the right are lightly colored so that the focus of those who pray here is on the Christ present among us in the Sacrament, Community (the Icon of the Blessed Virgin), and Scripture. During the retreat, many of my afternoons have been spent in quiet prayer here in the cool of the reservation chapel. The only sounds that drift down here are the bells chiming the hours, the soft whisper of a sister praying the stations in the body of the church, and the gentle rattle of my own beads...it is wonderful place to pray.