Reflections from a Monastic Guest

by Rev. Joe Barrett

Rev. Joe BarrettI am a Catholic priest assigned to three small parishes, and I am a part-time chaplain of a psychiatric hospital.  While I love my work, it can be very stressful and I wanted to do something to recharge my spiritual batteries. I had been a Postulant at Mepkin Abbey when I was younger, so I was very happy to be accepted into their Monastic Guest program in October 2019.

We began our stay at the retreat center.  We were considered retreatants for a few days.  We then were welcomed into the community as Monastic Guests.  In a couple of days we were living as monks! We rose at 3:00 am, prayed, worked, and ate with the brothers.  The schedule was rigorous, but enjoyable.

We had meetings with Father Columba as well as seminars on Lectio Divina and reflections on the scriptures.  I felt as if I were bathed in scripture.  I really loved the rhythm of the communal prayer. We worked at the farm and took turns in the kitchen.  This built up the feeling of brotherhood and helped me to encounter Christ.

We experienced one desert day.  The only structured prayer was Mass and Benediction at the end of the day.  There was no work and the day allowed time for prayer and contemplation.

We were very lucky to be at Mepkin as the monks were making their retreat.  We attended the retreat conferences which were very conducive to living the contemplative life.  Since my time at Mepkin I have been trying with limited success to be more contemplative and prayerful as I go through my daily life.  I am concentrating on living in the moment and putting a higher priority on my prayer life.

I thank the monks for the hospitality and generosity they demonstrated during my stay.  The month went by very quickly.  I was a little melancholy as I left the monastery; praying the priestly office hasn’t been the same since I have been home.  I think of Mepkin often, and I look forward to visiting again.