Let me preface my post with stating first and foremost, that this is MY journey, my experience. One which has left an indelibly bad taste in my spirit, else it wouldn’t raise a ‘stink’ (pun intended), whenever I think back on my Easter retreat, at Holy Cross Monastery.
There are some seasons in the church calendar which, if you are a solo pastor, no matter how you pace yourself, the season is going to be relatively stressful. Christmas is one, and the season of Lent which culminates in Easter or “Resurrection” Sunday – is another, which leaves some clergy rather drained. Both joyous times in the calendar, but draining going through all the services.
Last year, I found this place: Holy Cross Monastery, in West Park NY, overlooking the Hudson River. I had a wonderful time of spiritual replenishment. The 3 day retreat is a time for clergy from different backgrounds to come together and talk about ministry in our different contexts…and basically what led us to that place. We were led by a facilitator, for three days. It was a pleasant enough experience. Made a few friends and left there ready to enter back into our contexts, rested and refreshed.
The best part of the retreat for me, was attending mass 5 times a day. Listening to the brothers chant and just being able to sit and ‘be’, without having to worry about presiding and being responsible.
Meal times were wonderful, and with the exception of the The Great Silence, which lasted from evening until after breakfast…a lot of conversation and learning about one another was held at the table. I learned a lot about monks who had been there for many years, and new brothers who were just entering in…or at least trying it out.
Last year, I was in St. Catherine’s room (all rooms are named). It was a very plain room…all of the rooms are plain. I believe I saw one or two bugs…stink bugs to be exact. Realizing that the place is , and surrounded by trees…it was no big deal. I didn’t freak out over the few bugs.
It was quite a different story this year. Quite a different story indeed!
This year, I occupied St Helena’s room…on the other side of the building. And it was a nightmare. I was swamped with Stinkbugs. Everywhere I looked, there was a Stinkbug.
After the first night, I sat outside the administrative office to inquire about the critters, and was met by the facilitator of the group, who inquired about my sitting outside the office. I told her about all the Stinkbugs. She told me they were normal, and asked how many I had counted. I told her I stopped at seven. She shrugged and said she had about 5. There was nothing to do, but pick them up with a tissue and throw them outside.
Far be it from me to be a Debbie downer…so I got up and went about the rest of my day. The next night, was no different, well, it was a bit much to lie down and almost fall asleep, only to open my eyes and see one on the edge of my blanket, near my face. And again…there were more all around the room. I got tired of taking pictures, and chose instead to pack up my suitcase (round bout 11 pm), knocking the bugs off of items as I did so, zipped up my suitcase – and placed it in a chair, up off the floor. I got dressed, and went downstairs into the common area (lots of couches and chairs and hammocks) and I spent the rest of the night down there. Slept off and on, and finally awoke at about 6.
Went back upstairs, took care of my morning business…bought my bag downstairs and awaited breakfast. I ate, and got the hell outta there. I experienced no peace, no rest, no relaxation, no rejuvenation, no replenishment. Oh! And I was “shut up”, by the facilitator in group. That’s another story.
I left there feeling very anxious and on edge…because now, I am worried about what is in my suitcase. Which actually proved to be the case, once I got home. There were a few in my suitcase.
I do have pictures of the stinkers… And yes, I did email the office to let them know of my experience. Obviously, it was not an important issue for them. It was “bugs as normal”. In addition to the bugs, the ceiling in my room was in disrepair…it looked like a horrible leak had bust through the ceiling and had yet to be repaired and painted over. I was a wreck when I returned home.
Honestly, I was more stressed upon returning home, than I was upon my arrival at the monastery. It was simply horrifying. …my church council felt bad for me. With our limited funds, the church council sent their pastor away to be spiritually refreshed. A gift.
The gift remains to be in their “giving”…but I will certainly be looking for another place to be revived, next year.