2017 United Methodist Men’s Retreat
Measured by any standard our January, 2017 retreat was an outstanding success! 13 of us met at Vista and formed a car pool to St David, a small farm and ranch town between Benson and Tombstone. 4 vehicles and …..wait we forgot Marvin Rupe (literally) make that 5 vehicles. So, 5 vehicles with 13 participants, drove to the Benedictine Monastery south of St. David. It is a 40 year old Monastery with a Prior (guy in charge) 2 Priests and many Oblates and other volunteers. The 140 acre property does require tending and such “tending” makes up a good portion of Monastery life.
It isn’t all about work, there is a lot of time reserved for prayer. Follow this closely, work and prayer. Then accept most of this is done in silence on simple food fare. Well not to simple, the clam chowder and rolls were excellent and the salad bar was very good. Very likely they pulled out the stops as we were guests and guests, according to the Rule of St Benedict are afforded much courtesy and consideration. Guests eat first, staff eats what’s left……that’s the rule. Oh, an oblate is a person, man or woman who resolves to live according to the Benedictine Rule as they are able. Some oblates “live in” at the monastery for a period of time each year, living much as the vowed religious members of the order live. Some oblates live mostly in the world and visit the monastery occasionally.
We enjoyed the portion of the rule wherein we were favored (imagine that). Reciting all 150 psalms every week was a little less charming at least to most of us. But this they do and have done for 15 centuries, Benedict wrote the Rule in the 5th century AD. Hey man, this is the real deal! As originally proposed by St. Benedict, the entire Psalms were to be recited every day! This will certainly keep your mind occupied and free you from sinful temptations. Yet it doesn’t leave a lot of time for the other daily occupation – work. This business of finding God by shutting off the world of temptation and distraction requires a lot of shutting, it seems to me. Well, if it works and you find yourself in heaven one day who’s to say it wasn’t worth it?
This was a new and different experience for all of us and we enjoyed it very much. We ate two meals there and the rule of silence was officially relaxed so we could talk to one another. This was an actual verbal announcement, made by the Prior as we sat to take supper. After supper we walked backed to our dorms and these were much more than adequate, well above spartan. We had set up a campfire ring (pre approved and a first). We were asked to keep the fire in a container of some sort. Thanks to Bob Sherman we had a metal bar b que ring with screen. About 3 feet diameter it served well and our fire was a joyful affair in safety. We brought a fire extinguisher and shovel, neither was needed.
There is no group camping activity equal to a nice fire. A campfire is warm, engaging, relaxing and a great conversation stimulus. We sat around the fire (drawing closer as the thermometer fell to the low 30s (it was 28F during the late night). All of us bailed at about 1100PM. With a fire, a group does not need a detailed agenda of activities. At least we didn’t. We brought chairs and were prepared for the chill, it was a great outing. This was an activity well worth repeating, at that location and for the same purpose. Purpose? A bonding and sharing session for the guys who contribute to UMM, landscaping, some maintenance, rummage and generally helping around Vista.
Hey that’s work. And now and then we same guys pray. Wow, work and prayer. Is it possible we are similar to the Benedictine’s at least with our intentions? We go to church, we work, we pray we contribute and we sort of watch over each other. Maybe the official Rule isn’t so far fetched nor far from our lives? We at Vista do kind of the same things as the Monastery though admittedly to a lesser degree. It is so, frankly and we have the same goal, to find God through Jesus Christ within each other. The difference is at the Monastery the work – prayer day is all 24 hours and the daily regime more exacting and don’t forget the silence.
Our experience was rewarding. After breakfast on Saturday, kind of severe although filling, we were treated to a 45 minute presentation on the Benedictine way of doing things and style of life. It was honest and forthright. Trust this, they have their problems brought about by property ownership and power. 1500 years is an awfully long time. Very few organizations have lasted that long. In that time, a continuously functioning, record keeping organization learns a few things about human propensities and frailties. Being a member of a religious community in itself can not stop you as a sinner. It can however, give a person other meaningful directions in which to focus and through applied daily organization, regimentation and a measure of self denial, avoid such improprieties. A worthwhile state of affairs, it would seem.
We thank you, St Benedict for your Rule, your Monasteries and guidance, even for a day. I think all the participants (ourselves) really enjoyed attending and mentally giving themselves to this overnight retreat.
Our spiritual rewards were worth every little sacrifice to get there and the small cost of boarding. We take away a fresh perspective on the most mystical of all human experience, living ones life!
James L. Bleess UMMP