Nashville Retreat, Part III: Saturday Morning

The oratory, where retreat conferences were held

The oratory, where retreat conferences were held

Saturday Morning

5:50: Rising bell

6:20 Penitential psalms

6:30 Meditation

7:00 Lauds

7:15 Mass

8:15 Breakfast

9:00 House and Grounds Tour

9:45 Conference : ” He Reaches Out: The Creed and the Sacraments” 

10:30 Free time, until noon prayers

5:50 came really early. But I felt reasonably rested, after the very long day before, and Nashville was an hour behind Columbus, so I had really gotten an extra hour of sleep. I dressed, took my retreat folder, Bible, breviary, and The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena into the chapel with me.

The Seven Penitential Psalms are Psalms  6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129,  and 142. The sisters at St. Cecilia pray them from Ash Wednesday to Holy Week for the deceased of the order and departed sisters. (Praying for the dead is another Dominican tradition.) Since I’d also been praying these after Mass during Lent, I was glad to see these added to the morning’s prayers.

After the psalms, we had 30 minutes of meditation. I used this time to read some of the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, as well as the Book of Job. I’ve started reading this book several times but had never gotten farther than the first few chapters, so it was great to have this time to practice my lectio divina with this book.

On retreat, and in the convent itself, there are few clocks. The sisters wear watches either on their wrists or attached to their belts (silver watches only), because time is important in the horarium, even with the five minute bell that sounds before prayers and Mass. Wasting time is not monastic! 🙂 It was lovely to just have time pass, without knowing the actual time, and being absorbed in prayer and reading. (And we didn’t have anywhere else to be, but there, in Christ’s presence.)

At 7:00, those sisters and retreatants who hadn’t come to early prayers, for whatever reasons, came for lauds and then Mass, which was celebrated by Fr. Eckert.

At breakfast, silence was officially “broken”–the house keeps profound silence from 10 pm until after breakfast, for us; the sisters eat their meals in silence, listening to a sister read something devotional, unless it’s a Feast day. we, however, began chattering like magpipes over fruit, cereal, banana bread, and coffee. (oh blessed coffee–Sr. Peter Marie, who is the Vocations Director for the sisters and the “Boss” of the retreat, told us there was “Meditation Coffee” available before morning prayers. 🙂 )There wasn’t a sister at my table for breakfast, so Mary and I talked to about eight other retreatants as we ate. There were people from as far away as San Diego!

After breakfast, we were broken into groups and taken on a tour of the house and grounds. Sr. Jacinta, a nun still in formation (meaning she hadn’t taken her final, lifetime vows yet) led out group. She was very personable, funny, and perfect for leading us around the grounds. The house is large: the main floor had the oratory, the recreation hall, the Heritage Room (which celebrated the sisters’ 150th jubilee and held relics from the former St. Cecilia’s academy, which the sisters ran and was housed here,  as well as the larger Dominican Order). The oratory used to be the sisters’ chapel before the new one was built in 2006, and is still used for chapter meetings. There are two stories about the main windows, seen below, which I’ll tell you later. 🙂

St. Cecilia window in the oratory

St. Cecilia window in the oratory

St. Dominic window in the oratory

St. Dominic window in the oratory

The main floor also held a few offices and parlors, where guests could visit with the sisters. (The word “parlor” comes from the French parloir–” to talk”. Aptly named!) The parlors were beautifully decorated with artwork, plants and sculpture, and luxurious seating.

St. Cecilia mosaic, also in the Heritage Room

St. Cecilia mosaic, also in the Heritage Room

art in one of the parlors

art in one of the parlors

Art in the front left parlor, as you come in the convent's front door.

Art in the front left parlor, as you come in the convent’s front door.

Sr. Jacinta also took us to the sisters’ cemetery, which is near the visitor parking lot. The sisters have extensive grounds, with a majority of the land facing the “front” of the convent, looking out to the city and the state capitol building. There is a rosary walk, a gazebo which holds equipment for recreation (like croquet sets), and a statue of St. Dominic. We would get to explore the grounds during our first set of free time, after father’s first conference.

The second conference, at 9:45, focused on God’s love for us as seen through the creed and the sacraments. Father was very well-prepared, using his Bible and a copy of the Catechism to pepper his talks with citations. Here’s some of my notes:

  • The love of Jesus Christ overcomes all things
  • Church proposes faith for our belief (CCC)
  • B XVI–Faith is an ACT
  • We come out of ourselves in belief
  • “Today is about Joy”
  • Look to Mary for example–she lifts us up to her Son
  • Creed is the passing on of our faith and joy
  • We are baptized into the death of Christ
  • Fr. Eckert asked the older brother of a baby he was baptizing what the two gifts of baptism were. The boy said there was only one. Father asked what it was, and the boy said “love.” (That got a round of awwwwws)
  • In confession, we may grow tired of repeating the same sins, but we can’t give up–Jesus will help us conquer these
  • The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Love
  • Ask God to help you fall more and more in love with him every day.

After the talk, it was time for free time, one of my favorite parts of being on retreat. I went up to my room and returned my breviary and my bible, and retrieved a few of my books for reading, then I headed out to grounds.

Statue of the Sacred Heart

Statue of the Sacred Heart

The front of the house, as seen from the grounds

The front of the house, as seen from the grounds

St. Dominic

St. Dominic

me, Mary and Katie with St. Dominic.

me, Mary and Katie with St. Dominic.

It was windy outside, so it was hard to read, but it was lovely to see the statues and to be among the other women and sisters who walked about the grounds during their daily tasks. I saw some of the sisters praying their rosaries on the rosary walk.

I went back inside to the recreation hall, took a seat on one of the window seats (I looove window seats) and began to read and write in my journals about my retreat goals, and the people I had promised to pray for (which, by the way, I did every time we had prayer!). I wanted to more clearly discern my vocation and what God wanted me to do for Him. To that end, I’d also signed up to talk with a sister about these things, so I was waiting for that, as well.

IMG_1342

View from my window seat

View from my window seat

I headed down to the chapel to pray, and to spend some time in the presence of the Sacrament. Sisters were always in the chapel, in their stalls; I never saw it empty. Some retreatants were going to confession with one of the three priests available. I had just gone last week so I decided not to go again, to allow those who wanted/needed to go the opportunity to do so. There were about 60 of us, I think, so it was hard to get individual time with priests or sisters, and I didn’t want to deny anyone the sacrament so I could go, when I have ample opportunity at my home parish. (Every day!)

It’s hard to describe prayer to people, so I won’t try, except to say I was doing a lot of it. As the free time drew to a close, the sisters filed in upon hearing the five minute bell for Noon prayers.

We were keeping mostly silence. The sisters aren’t strictly contemplative–they teach, which is their charism–but the house did keep a general silent air. We talked mostly at meals, before conferences, at recreation, and that was basically it. When we went to the dorms at night, it was silent. You can’t really hear God if you’re yapping all the time!

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