The first return was to the grounds of the Monastery, but it had only been a few days since my previous visit. Though I have been present there, on and off, for 60 years, it was the first time I stayed for days on end.

Kairos. It is true this was an opportune period of time for silence and renewal. The proof is in the flow, which included unexpected crisis (missing None and Vespers on Sunday in order to take my sister to Urgent Care) and an unplanned, but necessary, sibling meeting on Tuesday morning which, at least, took place between Mass and Sext.

The external pulls were secondary to the internal pulls I’d arrived with, as in a soul full of noise and grief. But, Brother Gabriel sat through our meeting, politely offering a few key words. My plan had been to spend the retreat listening. If this is a period of discernment, I had reached an apex of static. Discern what, again?

Does he remember suggesting a hike? Does he realize how often he used the word ” ascolta?”

I took a long, silent hike the following day, and heard absolutely nothing. Glorious quiet, inside and out. I listened to nothing, really listened.

Deeper into Benedict: a joyful rhythm of Psalms and readings throughout the day, with both Vigils (4:45 a.m) and Compline (8:15 p.m) concluding in a circle of song around Our Lady, Queen of Peace. That was a surprise. Lovely and appropriate.

Take away:

1) A visit to the Tabernacle with the expectation that I’d end up crying. Not even close…I ended up laughing with delight as I heard, in my heart, “I am here!” “I am here!”

2) More delight at seeing at Mass, and greeting afterward, three different family members on three different days; cousins I rarely see, otherwise.

3) The inkling that Benedict’s Rule, full of Gospel basics, combined with the Psalms, are teaching me to be HUMAN. I can’t articulate all that means, yet. It has something to do with facing reality head on and honestly…including the truth that God loves us, not in spite of the fact we’re human, but because he loves his creations, of which we’re one.

(Brother Gabriel may have said so at our meeting. Apparently, I heard it.)

The Psalms: an honest mirror of life as a human…due respect and awe for life and its Creator, gratitude for the gifts, the successes, the victories…anguish, anger, name-calling, ill-will against enemies (within and without), pleas for help, lessons, promises, the WORKS.

The Rule: the best of good Italian fathers; a forerunner of Aquinas, in knowing we are to eat, dress, work, sleep, pray, take care of our whole selves, listen to God, and be good to each other. That’s the top layer…for me, for now.

Confession: everything about this Sacrament is good!

The second return was to home. Peaceful. Orderly. I lost the chronic feeling of missing this one or that one, the past, anxiety-as-familiar. Efforts to discern anything in five days and nights somehow went by the wayside. Kairos can happen here…in many ways, since I took on the Benedictine practices, it has been happening here. I just did not recognize it.

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