In meditation we should not look for a “method” or “system”, but cultivate an “attitude”, an “outlook”: faith, openness, attention, reverence, expectation, supplication, trust, joy. All these finally permeate our being with love in so far as our living faith tells us we are in the presence of God, that we live in Christ. ~Thomas Merton, from The Climate of Monastic Prayer

The snow was lightly falling through the evergreen forest as I awoke. I knew the road over the coastal mountains would be winter trouble if I tried to drive the two hours to the monastery. We live at the beach in northwest Oregon coastal village, a place not known for severe winters. I called the Abbey, cancelled my room and gave myself a gift of a monastic retreat at home.

Once a year, I treat myself to a retreat at a monastery. I withdraw from the busy schedule of family life and professional life, drive two plus hours over the Oregon coastal range to Mount Angel Benedictine Abbey and spend a few days in silence, solitude and prayer. Sometimes, I stay at the coast and enjoy a retreat at home. Our children are grown and away, allowing me to enjoy a day of silence and solitude in our home without much extra effort.

Taking a spiritual retreat is nothing new. Jesus often withdrew from the crowds to spend time alone with God in prayer. He invited his followers to do the same: ‘Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.[i] The apostles had just returned from their first preaching tour, excited about what God was doing through them. Hundreds of people were healed and set free from bondage to sin and evil. News spread. More and more people were “coming and going”, wanting access to Jesus and His disciples. Right in the middle of this ministry success, Jesus did the unpredictable. He called people to withdraw from the crowds to refresh themselves with time alone with God.

Through this single sentence found in Mark 6:31 we can discover a simple guide for treating ourselves to a day retreat. In the next few weeks, we’ll look into this verse to discover a pattern for spiritual refreshment through the gift of a day retreat.

[i] Mark 6:31.