Tim wrote inquiring what makes the days of retreat different from any other monastic day since the monks don’t go away for the retreat?
To keep the monastery in operation, everyone has some contribution to the work: cooking for one day of the retreat, helping with computer problems, putting out the trash, etc. It’s not unlike the little jobs family members must do even on Christmas day. But other than that, there is no work schedule and that’s a big difference. For example, fruit cakes are not backed, honey is not made, no work is done by us of the grounds. No meetings are scheduled. All these little adjustments give us extra time for prayer, reading, walks on the property–even doing nothing.
We follow the week-day schedule but it is tweaked: We celebrate Midday Prayer at 12:20 PM rather than at 2:00 PM, giving us a longer afternoon, a more relaxed pace.
The biggest difference is the presence of the Retreat Director. He offers us a daily conference, an optional discussion group at 11:45 AM and the chance to sign up for thirty minute slots to speak with him. In the concrete, that’s how we mark the retreat as a special time without leaving home. I’d be interested to know whether changes like these are applicable outside the monastery.