Retreat Day #1: The Wilderness is the Way

By Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB

At long last, retreat time has arrived at St. Mary Monastery. A profound quiet fills our hallways and rooms. Many smiles and pats on the shoulder replace conversation. The sense of relaxation is palpable.

What do we do during retreat? In some ways, nothing different from usual. We follow our same schedule, give or take an hour. That is, we gather for Lauds, Noonday Prayer, Vespers and Eucharist. We pray Lectio Divina. We take our meals together at noon and 5:30.

What we do otherwise, though, is different. We really listen to the songbirds, the crickets, the ducks on the lake. We enjoy nature. We journal. We reflect. We listen to God in all ways.

What we DON’T do during retreat is different, too. We don’t go to our ministries or watch TV or play games or socialize.

Retreat is a time for personal growth and deepening our relationship with God. Our retreat director helps us with that.

This year’s director is Abbot Jerome Kodell, OSB, from Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas. I’ll post reflections on his daily conferences. They might form a mini-retreat for you!

Day #1

Abbot Jerome opened our retreat with a talk on the role of wilderness in our lives. It dates back to Exodus, when Moses encountered the Burning Bush and learned what God’s plan for him was. It was to do God’s bidding, in the wilderness, without a map.

Wilderness is the standard Biblical pattern for spiritual life. We read about it repeatedly in the Old and New Testament. God is the Way.

God isn’t a map, though. And when we’re in uncharted, unknown territory in our life, all we want to do is get out!

We long for security. We begin planning our careers in high school. Next, we plan for our retirement. We put cameras in our businesses, security systems in our homes.

But if we get too focused on our need for security we can get stuck in one place and never become the person we are truly meant to be.

Moses argued with God about whether he was going to go to Egypt. He wanted God to send someone else. But God had chosen Moses. Moses had to say Yes to become the person God intended him to be.

God has a plan for each of us and promises – as with Moses – to be always with us.

Like Moses, God may be calling us to a path that only exists by the light of God. Moses had to place his trust in God. So do we.

God is here. God is with us. If we listen, God will guide us throughout the wilderness … home.

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