Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Celebrating Friendship

I took off from work yesterday so I could rest from doing nothing all weekend. I rose at my usual workday time last Friday. After stopping for gas and coffee, I jumped into the frantic morning commute. Instead of heading to work, I headed towards the monastery. The morning commute on a workday is a great metaphor for everything one wants to leave behind when going on a retreat. My joy increased as traffic decreased. I did not stay at the monastery for this retreat. The demand for rooms in the guesthouse was high and I always have a place to stay with my friend, Fr. Dennis, so I gave up my room. Dennis is a great host and a very welcoming person. We have much in common although he is much more extroverted than me. The theme of this years retreat was spiritual friendship. At first I felt a little disconnected from the retreat because I wasn't at the monastery. Eventually I realized I was very much in tune with the retreat even though I wasn't always physically present. During much of the weekend I shared meals and conversation with Dennis. We talked in depth about the spiritual life and more mundane topics such as our shared struggles with diabetes. Early on Friday, we took a walk on the grounds of Nazareth College. At one point when Dennis realized I was breathing rather heavy, he suggesting sitting for a moment. There we were on the park bench. It reminded me of a Simon and Garfunkel lyric that goes, "Old friends, old friends, sitting on the park bench like bookends". Later in the weekend I realized that the retreat had actually turned into a celebration of friendship for me. Dennis and I are two friends who met long ago, were separated by time and distance for many years, and then were reunited as much older men. Staying with Dennis turned into a great personal retreat for me. We had quiet masses together in his small chapel. I took a couple of world class naps that made me feel as though I had slept for a thousand years. We shared simple but enjoyable meals. Over the weekend I became rested and refreshed. I was able to also spent time at the monastery and interact with other friends and acquaintances. I will have more time their next month when I attend a gathering of monks, nuns, and lay people from all over the United States. So, like most retreat weekends, I wasn't sure what would happen. What did happen, however, is what I needed to happen.

My extra day at home was wonderful. It was a mostly quiet day spent doing simple things. I was alone all day except for some neighborhood cats and a couple of very industrious squirrels preparing for winter. Yes, winter is coming although these early October days are still feeling like summer.

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