It’s always interesting to bring volunteers into the bakery. Most try very hard to fit into their expectations of working with monks and it can be a very self-conscious exercise. Some people go on vacation and spend good money to swim with sharks; others go on retreat and try working with monks. It can be scary. Some volunteers never quite get with the program and the monks exert diplomacy and do their penance with an intentional smile; so I was interested to ask our Bakery Manager, Ernie Polanskas, how the work morning in the Bakery with our MIW retreatants went.
“They were great!”, he said without hesitation. “I had everything set up for them and they just went right to work. They seemed like a really nice group.” I would say that the entire week was like that, whether they were joining the monks in choir for the Divine Office, silent prayer together in the Retreat House Chapel or absorbing the monastic conferences. The impression has been that these are mature people serious about their life in Christ, interested in the monastic community and as supportive of us as our vocation may be of theirs.
I felt that we were not just “giving” them an opportunity to get behind the scenes of the monastic life but they were enriching us, making explicit that, by baptism, we share the same call to holiness. Certainly, our enclosure is not here to keep anyone out but to keep us focused. From Monday through Friday, that same enclosure became a nurturing matrix we shared with our MIW retreatants–and we’re ready to do that again.