This weekend the parish has our first work retreat day. This will be very different than work days in the past, where everything was about the work to be accomplished. The Liturgy and Formation Ministry does have a variety of tasks for us to consider, but unlike past Saturday work days, this work will be done in the context of prayer. The inspiration for tomorrow comes from the Benedictine monastic idea that the day is measured in four ways - work, study, prayer and rest. This is why we have created the following schedule.
THE SCHEDULE - August 1
The Church opens for Silent Prayer 9:00 am
Morning Prayer & Rosary 9:30 am
Mass in the BVM Chapel 10:00 am
Fellowship & Explanation of Tasks 10:30 am
1st Work Period 11:00 am – 12:30 noon
Lunch 12:30 noon
2nd Work Period (Silence) 1:15 – 2:30 pm
Wrap-Up 2:30 pm
Evening Prayer, Exposition & Benediction 3:00 pm
Confessions may be heard after the morning mass.
We are cognizant that working people are often tired by the time Saturday arrives, hence we are not beginning until 9:30 am. This allows our members who are workers to have a slower morning, perhaps getting a couple of hours of extra sleep after a busy work week. We also plan to finish by 3:45 pm, allowing participants plenty of time for a social and free evening.
The rhythm of the day includes prayer. We begin with Morning Prayer, the Rosary and Mass, and we will end the day with a quiet service of Evening Prayer and Eucharistic Adoration. These times of prayer are not mere add-ons, but rather they are essential. Prayer grounds the work we are given to do by God each and every day.
There are two work periods to the day, one before lunch and one after lunch. The Liturgy and Formation Ministry has been gathering the supplies needed, and there are a variety of work options. Some of our work will be teaching more people the work that is done weekly to prepare the church for Sundays. Other work will include tasks that could be titled "annual summer cleaning." We have a decent list of projects, but it is not necessary to complete everything, or even half of the items on the list. Our work is never to make us feel rushed, especially on this day. Depending on the volunteers available, tasks will be chosen and completed in an intentional manner. It is better to do less, and to do it with prayerful intention, than to do things just to "get them done." The reality is that there will always be more work to do, so let us not be anxious about everything we think must be done.
You might be wondering, "how do I make my work more prayerful?" Having a spirit of thankfulness is key. So often when we do our work, we are guided by our anxiety to get something done, or our desire to please someone else, or our inability to see how our work connects with others. For instance, if you are preparing the communion ware for Sunday, you might give thanks that because of your gift of time and talent, the Sacrament of Holy Communion will be made available to God's people. If you are cleaning the votive candles, you might think about all the ways in which your work will aid people's prayer throughout the week. If you are vacuuming or dusting, you might simply give thanks that God's house will be clean and have integrity. If you end up washing some windows, you might give thanks that the sunlight can shine brighter into our church. There are multiple ways to give thanks while doing God's work. You might give thanks that you live in a city where clean water comes out of the faucet whenever you need it. Hopefully such prayerfulness can inform your work life during the week as well.
You may have noticed that the afternoon work session is done in silence. Silence is integral to any retreat day, and observing silence is a very successful way to build community. When I was in seminary, we had a retreat every year, and it included time for silence. This had many benefits. First of all, when silence is observed you quickly discover how much unnecessary chatter pollutes the air. We are a society that is afraid of silence and stillness, so it is good to have silence as a way of reorienting our lives to each other and to God. We also use our voices to prevent us from truly knowing people. When you cannot talk your way through everything, you will find that you have to be attentive to the people around you in a more focused way. Working with someone in silence for an hour is like having a conversation with someone for five hours. When the silence ends you will discover that you have bonded with your co-workers in a deeper way.
Saint Benedict once said, "he who labors as he prays lifts his heart to God with his hands." Whether we are resting, working, praying or studying, may we lift our hearts to God with our hands, knowing that everything we do is ultimately an offering to almighty God. For more information on St. Benedict, click here. I hope you can join us on Saturday.
Father Paul Lillie+