What rest and retreat can bring...

Last week, I had the privilege to stay for five nights and six days at the St. Mary's Retreat House, run by the Mt. Calvary Community. (If that sounds like a mouthful, it's because the Mt. Calvary retreat house burnt down in the Tea Fires some years ago, and the Sisters of Holy Nativity who were running St. Mary's are letting them run it.)

you'd think I'd have enough pictures of this St. Francis statue,
but the sun was shining on him so brightly
I love this place. I love hanging out with the brothers (who are Episcopalian Benedictine monks). I love the chanting. I love the peace that I find there.

I was introduced the first night as "Here's Leanne. She's one of our regulars!" and my quip back was: "Are you saying that I'm coming here too often?"

Of course not. No such thing.

Mt. Calvary is my place to regroup, to rest and recover. It's where I can be free of distractions (okay, I snuck two peeks at Facebook this time, but no email or anything else!) and focus on Jesus and be better able to listen to Him.

Oh and to chant in the chapel.

inside the chapel (not during a service)

At Mt. Calvary, my day is set by the bells:
6:00am Angelus bells (from the Santa Barbara Mission next door) I don't actually make it out of bed until around 6:45am
7:25am call to Lauds
8:00am little bell for breakfast
11:55am call to Eucharist
12 noon Angelus bells (Mission)
12:30pm little bell for dinner
5:25pm call to Vespers
6:00pm Angelus bells (Mission), plus the bell (once a giant triangle!) for supper
7:55pm call to Compline
Sunday got a little confusing when bells for services at the Mission rang five minutes before the bells for the services at the retreat house. At least we made it on time.

chapel cross: I love this image of Christ resurrected on the cross
I've already shared my bee encounter and there was a definite fauna theme to the week: 10 bird species counted in one day; the bee thing; the bunnies on the lawn; the dragonflies...
after the bee escorted me away, I spotted a bunny and stalked it

it tried hiding before it disappeared into the hedge
God was working as well.

In my restlessness....  when am I going to be of use again? What can I do (beyond some financial charity) to make a difference?  This is something to look into.

standing in the center of the labyrinth
In the discovery that two other guests that first night (there were five of us) and one monk, were all in a state of transition: one fresh retired, one looking at colleges and law school, and one monk on sabbatical for a year as he transitions out of a leadership position.  That seemed fated, and there were brief discussions on the subject.

The wisdom that resonated was that one had found the first month was resting and readjusting and then in the second month, the ideas start to come.

And this is my second month. And I had an idea which makes immense sense given that I've the appropriate gifts. Yeah, sorry, I'm being vague, but I don't want to say I might do something and then not end up doing it at all. When I'm ready to be accountable for this idea, you'll know!

I am letting them rest and build and exploring various bits of it to see if this is an idea that has traction and that exploration is going to take me through November at least.

God was working in my reading ... although how soon do I forget that not only am I beloved of God, but that everyone else is too? Far too frequently, alas.

I read Henri Nouwen's "Life of the Beloved" and found myself incredibly moved and affirmed and ... wishing I'd written that book because it expressed so much of what I feel and have experienced.

His words were reflected and amplified by my slow meditative reading of Nan Merrill's "Psalms for Praying", a beautiful set of rewritten psalms. After Compline each night, I read and re-read a small handful of her psalms, reminded again and again of God's love for each of us.

Prayer in the chapel a few blocks away belonging to the Poor Clare sisters. They are a discalced cloistered order (that is, they go barefoot and stay within the convent -- although I've seen a few venture out). This chapel is so precious. Even though I'm not Catholic, I always go there at least once on a retreat. It's just a special place.

the retreat house chapel
The chapel at the retreat house is also a good place to pray quietly, although I seem to leave that to the corporate prayer of Lauds, Eucharist, Vespers and Compline during the day!

A friend and my husband showed up on Friday, so it was good to spend time with them. The bottle of wine shared with the Friday night guests seems to have become a bit of a tradition. :)

Each morning, I made a cup of Earl Grey tea and sat out on the patio to watch the sun-rise. Even on the foggy mornings. There's something about watching and listening to the world wake up, observing the beauty of God's creation.

on the patio

Each evening, I sat out on the patio and watched the sun set (and watched the woodpeckers feed their babies). Sometimes with a decaf Roobios Chai and sometimes not. I'd sit there until the bell rang for Compline.

I arrived with the intent to focus on what my ministry, my calling might look like, but I ended up working more on two inner excavation prompts, which I will share next week after my collaborator and I get together.

And I'm continuing to learn more about patience, which I'll also share next week.

Have you ever been on retreat?


  1. I love taking retreats like this and often find them unpredictable as well. I go in with one idea of what I want to focus on, but God likes to redirect.
    Looks like a great place you've found!


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