Saturday, September 1, 2012

silent weekend at the monestery 2011

my version:
my mind is well rested, my heart openly altered and my soul forever moved.

gracie's version:

this weekend, a loud cat sang to me, i nearly fell into a reflecting pool, i met geese who politely "honked" so i'd be sure not to get run over by them. i was sprinkled with holy water TWICE and THEN a monk came down to the floor, blessed me, then he said that *I* was a blessing!!! such amazing grace!!!! God is so generous:)

so much to tell:) it's so hard to explain the feelings i had when i got there, and while i was there, but i'll give it a shot. this is my first time trying to write about this, so i hope i can do it justice.

here's a link to where we were:

anyway....leading up to the weekend, i was really nervous. i've never done anything like this before, and i was definitely worried i wouldn't know what i was doing around so many holy people! the closer i got to the place, the more scared i felt, actually. my heart was pounding like crazy when i got into conyers, ga. once the count down on my navigator started, i was truly shaking.

when i turned onto the driveway, i felt giddy! i could see the building but it was really far away. i drove slowly, because i wasn't sure where i was going or what to do when i got there.

finally, we parked outside the abbey store and the bonsai garden house. i walked my dog and then we started looking for the retreat house. we passed by some amazing catholic geese:) we finally found our check in place, met patti who runs the office and got our keys. we went up to the third floor and put our things down in the has a desk, a bed and a chair. we shared a bathroom with another lady from our church that was in the room next to us.

after, gracie and i went down to the lake and watched about 30 geese swimming around. there were also lots of mallard ducks, but the geese seemed to own the place:) we stayed down there until 5:00 and then went back to the retreat house. from there, we got directions to go to 5:20 vespers.

i haven't been in a catholic church in quite a long time, and i've never been to one like this before. very few pews, all in the back. we sat in the choir stalls next to the monks. the chanting was amazing.....with just a few prayers scattered in. it lasted about 20 minutes, and then it was time to go.

i walked out with the woman who showed me the way in. she was behind me and gracie, and she walked with one of the monks. she said to him, "did you get my email that you're speaking to a group tonight?" i almost stopped dead in my tracks! EMAIL???? email?? for a monk? monks get email??????????

anyway, we then went to dinner and ate in silence. very simple meals, but tasted great and there was always just enough. after dinner, our group of 8 met with that same monk! he told us how to find our way around and what to do if we needed anything. all of a sudden, i saw under his robes...........he had on jeans and sneakers!!!!!!!!!!!!! i chucked a bit....and he saw me looking at his feet and said, "i'm just a regular guy!"

one of the other girls in our group asked him if he was allowed to leave and if so, what did he wear when he went into town. he told us that he normally would wear regular clothes, but the following day, he was going to the circus, and would wear monks clothing because he wanted the free parking..:)

anyway, after that get together, it was time for grand silence (8p-4a). we all went to our rooms, and i, of course, tried to see if i could get a signal on my laptop. didn't happen. i can't say i'm sad, either. i decided to just lie there and think. the silence around me was positively deafening. my dog was on the twin bed with me, just staring into my eyes. i tilted my head back to take my medicine and there was jesus hanging on the wall above me. to be honest, it startled me for a second, then made me giggle with nervousness for another second, then made me feel rather calm.

to be honest, i didn't sleep much at all that night. i was awake until 3:30am. i missed the 4am prayers, but made it to 7am. it's very dark in the church, which at first was a little odd, but i really grew to love it more with every prayer session.

saturday was filled with more silent meals, group sessions, down times, dog walks, the lake. gracie and i found ourselves watching a wedding with just a bride, groom, minister and a witness. it was on a hill in the middle of the grounds. the beauty of the simplicity was incredible...... after, i watched the couple walk around a bit, holding hands and not talking, just 'being'. that afternoon, i found some of her bouquet petals down by the lake. they looked so elegant, lying there in the midst of so many pinecones and needles, right next to the water.

we went to our last evening prayer service and we were both blessed with holy water, and then we stayed after by ourselves. i was up near the alter and a monk came close. i asked him if he would bless my dog, which he did, and then he blessed me, too. we went upstairs to bed and had no trouble sleeping. we woke up bright and early for a prayer service, final meeting and then church in the old crypt, lunch and then it was time to pack. we stayed for 2 more hours, just walking around the grounds taking pictures, and then we started home...........back to normal life.

or so i THOUGHT..........

a little back story- many moons ago i left the hotel after work one night. i parked in front of my house which was only 4 blocks away. a man put something over my mouth and took me to an empty apartment where he fucked me over, quite literally.

the initial charges ranged from sodomy, rape, and kidnapping to attempted murder. he pleaded down to kidnapping and rape and got life in prison. in GA, that means ten years. he's just failed his first attempt at parole, but will be getting released unconditionally february 12, 2012 due to over crowding.)

onto the part two:

saturday morning, our group met to discuss what we wanted from life in terms of our futures, both immediately and in days, months and years to come.

i was listening to some ladies who were a couple of generations ahead of me as they spoke mostly of feeling they had gotten to a place in their lives where their thoughts in that moment were mostly geared toward a specific goal. the ideas, in their own words was they felt the lives they had lead up to that point were made up of thoughts and actions and enough "check ins" at sunday services that they felt they had earned a RIGHT to be seated close to god in heaven when they arrived.

they also included things like the pain of divorce, a husband lost to suicide, one woman with health issues....each of them concluded these events were their ticket to heaven, with a great seat! i listened to their words, i wondered whether their experiences and expected outcomes were to come true.

all of this made me sort of examine what i wanted or expected from life and, really....from death as well. what's the goal? what's the reason to live the way i live? actually, more importantly, IS there a reason to live the way i live? am i supposed to feel obligated to behave in a way that will get me a good seat? do i want a good seat? quite honestly, i don't particularly care. i don't sit still very well anyway.

before i left friday to go to the retreat, i printed out the prison mug shot and rap sheet of the man who assaulted me. i recently found out that he is, in fact, due to be released in 11 months. he's failed parole already last november, but come february 2, 2012, the state can no longer keep him as a prisoner. when i saw that, i was absolutely petrified.

then i spent some time with him in my pocket at the retreat. i began to wonder what had happened in his past that made him capable of even thinking about committing such crimes. i felt more and more firmly rooted in my knowledge that an average person doesn't run around assaulting people, raping them and attempting to murder them. something HAD to have happened to him long, long before i was ever on his radar. how could i not begin to have compassion for someone who lived such a tortured life? someone must have harmed him in a way that was irrevocable and life altering in the most damaging of ways.

with that in mind, how could i wish "hell" on such a person? i had been so busy harboring my own anger, fear, helplessness and guilt. if i kept hanging on to those things, how would there be room for the forgiveness for him that i wanted for myself???

i suddenly began to feel love and compassion and forgiveness. there was a place in me that became so incredibly open to welcome him in so i could keep him near me and pray for him. the more i opened my heart to this idea, the more free i became.

my soul was always something that i thought was on reserve for when my body ceased to live, and something needed to go to heaven. that was my soul's job- go to heaven to represent me, right?

not really. that weekend, my soul literally opened up. i saw god in there and he moved over a little. shortly thereafter, my soul just grew big and wide enough to make plenty of room for this man to dwell also. i keep him in the safety of my soul and i pray for him.

none of this means i forgive the harm he caused me, but it DOES mean that i recognize that he is a human being, and i am allowed to hate the acts and still have compassion for the person. i must have compassion for him.

that's what i wish for him. to find forgiveness for himself and live with a soul that is free from torment, of anger, fear, violence, hatred and loneliness.

so what i learned was not only that i didn't need or want a seat up close in heaven. i feel firmly grounded in the fact that THIS person needs god to hold him, keep him, and remind him every day that he can be forgiven......

i'll gladly give up my seat for that.!/media/set/?set=a.1649171942550.2088861.1034495925&type=3


  1. So beautiful, Jeni, that you were able to come to this place of peace amid the horror you endured. It takes a special soul to see the human in the inhumane.

    Catholic geese *snort*.

    All that silence sounds both divine and unnerving.

    I always wondered about people who were doing good just to get a reward...? It seems like god would want you to do good because you realize that you are connected to All, and what you do to others you do unto yourself.

    The way you do.

  2. I have never read your blog before, do not know your story, but this description of the retreat was beautiful and moving, especially given the brutal rape you had endured and how you have been able to deal with that.

    I would love to do the kind of retreat you did. I was just in Ireland visiting relatives and saw many ruined monasteries that Cromwell destroyed centuries ago, and also attended Mass at one still functioning in Esker, Co Galway. I will look into retreats there and also nearer where I live in the states, NJ. Thanks for writing this and may your healing and blessings continue. By the way I am a reunited mother who gave up a child in 68.

  3. Hugs to you Jeni... and lots of smiles for your self healing and your compassion. And lots of hugs for Gracie who IS a blessing to you (and much of the world around her).

  4. Lots of love to you Jeni... lots of hugs too.

  5. That is one of the most beautiful and moving pieces of writing I have ever read. Amazing....I have no more words. Just tears of understanding and love for you.

  6. Admiring the dedication you put into your site and in
    depth information you offer. It's great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn't the same outdated rehashed material.
    Fantastic read! I've saved your site and I'm including your
    RSS feeds to my Google account.

    Prescription Swimming Goggles
    My page - Prescription Swimming Goggles