For six days in mid June, members and affiliates of the Order of Julian of Norwich, a contemplative order of monks and nuns in the Episcopal Church, met at a Redemptorist retreat center in Wisconsin for prayer and community. In the Order, prayer and community, though not exactly interchangeable, are very connected. Whether we are together, as we were last week, or miles apart as we usually are, our prayer binds us to each other, to the church, and most importantly, to our Savior.
For this post, I am going to let the pictures tell the thousand words that I really don't have about the beauty and power of this event. Above is a peony taken from the garden at Julian House Monastery.
The first three days of the retreat were spent in silence. Except when our own voices were raised in prayer, only our retreat leader's voice was ever heard.
The labyrinth is a good place for contemplation, and there was one on the grounds. I am not a big fan of labyrinths, but I did walk this one several times. And I noticed some things about it. Here, on a sign just outside it, are the directions for walking the labyrinth. Notice the bird droppings.
The paths in the labyrinth are laid out with mathematical precision. The stones that line the paths were clearly chosen for their uniform size and shape and color, yet there are many irregularities. Weeds grow in the paths.
Walking the labyrinth can be challenging. Sometimes the paths are gentle and straight; sometimes there is a sharp turn and you might lose your balance.. Sometimes you feel that you are close to the center and your journey is nearly fulfilled. Then, with the next step, you are heading in the opposite direction. Pretty soon, you have to give up predicting your walk - how soon you will reach the center, or the exit - and just walk.
The chapel is an important place in the retreat. Here the daily office is said, the Eucharist is celebrated and retreatants go to pray on their own. You can see the chapel empty (but for me) in the early morning and again with people waiting for the start of Eucharist.
Brother Gerry, a Redemptorist who lives on site, has forty beehives. Here is one of them as well as some of its product.
There is a tradition at this event to have a used book sale. A flat rate of $2 per book!! All proceeds go to the Order with the remaining books donated to the Cathedral's (Milwaukee) book sale. Maybe next year I'll be able to resist.
The sisters at Julian House are expert soap makers and not lacking in a sense of humor either.
The last three days (called Julian Fest) are spent with lots of talking and celebrating. Prayers and Eucharist continue as before but meals are noisy and there is lots of social time. On the penultimate day, we gathered for a group picture.
With this result.