The monastic community is on retreat this week meaning they have conferences all week and do not follow the usual work schedule. Even the gift shop is closed.
Why do monks need a retreat, you might ask? Isn’t their whole life kind of a retreat?
Truth is this is a common misconception about monastic life. Many think once you go to the monastery your work is done, you pray all day and have lots of silence. And obviously all of that is true. The monastery is all about ‘ora et labora, ‘ -work and prayer and that is at the heart of everything in the monastery. But the monks are also busy. Besides the liturgical work-the daily office five times a day, plus mass, lectio divina, silent prayer, the rosary-there is the work-work, packaging honey, making fruit cakes, running retreat houses and gift shops and cemeteries. No the monks life is far from all leisure and that is exactly what St. Benedict requires.
It is always good to have someone come in from the outside to encourage the monks to new prayer, and new thoughts and new ways to honor their life with God. Retreat for a monk is the same as retreat for us: a time for reflection and prayer for silence and stepping back from the daily in the monastery.
All of us need retreat; even monks.