Listen carefully, my child, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart… ~ Rule of Benedict
A retreat at Spirit Center is an opportunity to live life according to the Rule of Benedict alongside the monastic community. Benedict undertook the grand goal of designing a way of life that would bring out the best in people and keep them focused together on the Divine. The results, as history has shown in Benedictine monasteries through time, are communities that have shared the Kingdom of God in myriad ways including healing and educating, creating justice, inspiring the arts, and preserving culture.
Benedict’s Rule is structured and practical in ways that encourage encounters with the mystery and grace of God. From an intentional prayer schedule to his (mostly relevant) advice to not go to bed while still wearing a knife (RB 22), his counsel is both visionary and realistic. Here are some ways you can expect to live the 1500-year-old Rule of Benedict while on retreat at Spirit Center:
…and let us take part in the psalmody in such a way that our mind may be in harmony with our voice. (RB 19)
Benedict felt that a way to keep a community focused together on God was to make sure they were praying together — and often. The St. Gertrude community gathers for Morning Prayer at 8:30, Midday Mass (or Praise) at 11:30, and Evening Prayer at 5:00 (on most days — be sure to check the prayer schedule). All guests are invited to join the monastic community for prayer and Mass. When first getting started, it’s best to arrive ten minutes early so a sister can orient you to the prayer book.
Monastics ought to be zealous for silence at all times, but especially during the hours of the night. (RB 42)
Benedict emphasized balance to encourage spiritually healthy human beings. This meant balancing work with leisure and the noise of daily living with silence. It is often in silence where the day’s events are integrated into wisdom and inspiration — and spoken words yield to wordless movements of the soul. The St. Gertrude community observes Grand Silence between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. As Morning Prayer begins at 8:30 a.m., a monastic’s first spoken words of the day are to God. (One exception: In honor of our guests and retreatants we share conversation at breakfast on weekends.)
Benedict saw monastic life in three parts: liturgical prayer, manual labor, and Lectio Divina — a reflective reading of scripture. Lectio Divina consists of four steps: read, meditate, pray, contemplate. Benedictine spirituality places a high importance on reading, in general, and libraries have always been prominent in Benedictine monasteries. St. Gertrude’s main library is near the chapel, and there is a library just for retreatants on the ground floor of Spirit Center.
Choices of Food
…have two cooked dishes on account of individual infirmities, so that he who for some reason cannot eat of the one may make his meal of the other. (RB 39)
Long before the awareness of gluten intolerance and other food allergies, Benedict already had a sense that different people sometimes require different types of food. Not one for extreme asceticism, he advised the serving of at least two types of foods at a meal to accommodate different tastes and sensibilities. That’s why you will find at least two entrees at dinner and supper, and an assortment of options at breakfast.
During the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), Pope John XXIII called religious communities to more closely follow the precepts of the original founders of their orders. The mode of dress for Benedictine women had essentially been a carryover of Medieval fashion of the wealthy that was never reassessed. Many sisters felt the habit interfered with their ministries. When they turned to the Rule for guidance they found that Benedict, in his typically reasonable way, recommended clothes “to the nature of the place,” “of the proper fit,” and able to be given to the poor. (RB 55) The dress code now follows suit: modest, comfortable, and appropriate for the weather and liturgical occasion.
If there are artisans in the monastery, let them practice their crafts with all humility (RB 57)
Like many Benedictine monastic communities throughout history, our monastery is serving to protect a cultural heritage as well as a spiritual one. We are a sanctuary for the arts with dynamic classical and sacred music performances as well as art retreats and programs that serve to deepen spirituality through creativity. Retreatants have the opportunity to visit our Historical Museum and utilize the art studio that is on the ground floor of Spirit Center (next to the library).
The Monastery of St. Gertrude is responding to the desire of people beyond traditional monastic life for a deeper spirituality and relationship with God. Learn about retreats, the Monastic Immersion Experience, our oblate community (lay members), Benedictine spirituality programs, and volunteer opportunities.