This time we are grateful to present a special guest blogger, Stephen, who was on a Long Term Guest retreat with us earlier this year, sharing his experience at New Clairvaux:
My Retreat Experience
It was a month that passed by too quickly. But what a blessed month it was. Every day started off at 3:10 am. Thank God for alarm clocks! And the day usually ended around 9:30pm. The day is wonderfully divided into the Office of the Hours here. And nothing gets in the way of worshiping God and singing His praises with psalms and hymns. Then of course there are the Bible and patristic readings, the sermon and, most importantly, the Eucharist.
Between services there was various outdoor tasks to do, and in my room during the free time my own business work, except for Sunday. Mostly the outdoor work involved the vineyard. For some reason even though I’m originally from Canada the heat of the summer didn’t seem to be a problem. In general the vines needed to be suckered and trimmed, grapes needed to be moved around, and leaves needed to be plucked. Also the ever-present “weeds” needed to be removed or burned. Burning involves hauling around a propane tank and torching them. This works wonderfully well for the small weeds and you quickly become familiar with every type of wild plant. Then there is the general grounds keeping, raking and more weeding. For a guy that is stuck behind a computer most of the time doing programming, all this was great.
Lastly there was the food. The monks do the cooking and bring it in via a golf cart. Usually everything was quite healthy and tasty: fresh steamed vegetables, stir-frys, fish and an endless supply of fruit, milk, yogurt, cheese, home-made bread and peanut butter. All of which made me a happy guy.
The longer I was at New Clairvaux the more I felt that this is the way man (or a woman) was meant to live. Church, work, good food and prayer. What more could you want?