This past weekend I was able to spend on a Benedictine Weekend Retreat at the Bishop’s Ranch outside of Healdsburg, California.  Those of you who have been at similar events know that the bulk of my time was spent in prayer (mostly the daily offices).  The bulk of the time was also spent in silence.  By the end of the weekend, as we debriefed (one at a time) I felt like I could still hear an underlying silence even as each person spoke.  It was kind of nice.

Most of our prayers were straight out of the Book of Common Prayer.  But we also did a service based on the New Zealand Prayer Book and a Taize service.  We spent time in lectio divino.  I spent time with the Anglican Rosary.  I did some writing.  I read a lot of Lindsey Crittenden’s account of her spiritual journey in “The Water Will Hold You:  A Skeptic Learns to Pray.”  And we heard enough of Martin Laird’s book “Into the Silent Land:  A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation” (read to us during our meals) that I bought it and am reading it on my kindle.

I’m as relaxed as I’ve ever been at this point in Advent.  I’m also feeling better prepared for Christmas than I’ve ever been.  And I’m feeling affirmed in looking in a Benedictine direction in my ongoing spiritual journey.  I found myself participating, not thinking about what I was doing and what I was getting out of it.

It might be much harder to do something like this for a full week (an option next summer) — let alone a lifetime.  But a weekend was renewing — even if I also was, on some levels, working fairly hard.  That much time in prayer and reflection is certainly not natural for me, at least not now, even if it did feel like a good fit.  I found that I needed some of the time just to rest, not really worrying about (or thinking about) much of anything.

And having done some retreats of similar length entirely on my own, I’d have to say I found real value in spending this time in community.  A silent, prayerful community.  I’d like to do this again.