And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 (KJV)
Just over a week ago I returned from our yearly pilgrimage to two monasteries located about 6 hours south of where I live. This has always been an enjoyable mid-Lenten retreat aimed at taking a group of children from the parish to spend time with the monastic communities and also in the outdoors.
This year, unlike my two previous visits, we had a good group of both boys and girls so we took the boys to the men’s monastery and the girls stayed at the nearby (1+ hour away) Sisterhood.
My priest and I stayed with the boys, but took a trip across on the Sunday to serve liturgy at the sisterhood in their chapel. This was my first time serving as the only deacon at a liturgy and it was surprisingly daunting. With God’s help I managed not to completely stuff things up. The chapel at the sisterhood is beautiful and quaint but very small, and rubrically challenging. I could almost stand in the centre and cense the entire church and the entrances were almost ballerina twirls (maybe not the most accurate metaphor) due to the confined space and lack of actual doors.
This time also I managed a tour of the men’s monastery which I had not seen a great deal of prior to this trip. One of the Hieromonks had asked me to take some tools to the Sisterhood and asked if I wanted to take a look around. We then spent 1-2 hours driving around; stopping, looking and chatting about the various buildings, sketes etc.
I also found near to our guesthouse another chapel, rivalling the one at the sisterhood due to a more compact “backyard-friendly” design.
There is no limit to my appreciation of the monastic life, there is no way (even ignoring having a wife – which one should never do - Hi darling if you are reading this!!”) I could survive this kind of life. But the serenity that is possible, even on a visit to these holy places, is quite revitalising, particularly mid way through Great Lent.
This year, the regions around the monasteries have experiences exceptional rainfall and the sisterhood, while their property was not damaged, suffered an annihilation of their pump house – used to supply water tanks from the river.
On a positive front, thanks to generous donations of money and labour the Sisterhood is well on the way to completing their new accommodation. God-willing they will start on their new refectory building this year and will then be able to move from the existing temporary quarters.
This retreat is a valuable spiritual journey for the children we take. Despite the long drives and logistics the adults also benefit much also.
Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me