People are often surprised when they find out that we make an annual retreat. First, they think we went AWAY on retreat. Then when they find out that we stay home for our retreat there is a bit of head scratching! Even devout people can't understand that our life isn't just a 9-5 job but a life of loving communion with God who has given us the amazing gift to belong to Him as His spouses. Can anyone really be enough with the one they love? The annual community retreat is a very special time for our community. Some communities have 2 retreats a year when half the community goes on retreat and the other half does the common work but we've never found that attractive. We like the idea of everyone together experiencing this time. Each sister also has the option of a private retreat as well so it sort of "makes up" for the common work during community retreat.
The annual retreat is sort of "vacation" for nuns. We are encouraged to do only our necessary work: cooking, laundry, etc. and to keep what we do need to do simple. Towards the end of retreat one can tell that sisters are ready to get back to work!
So, why a retreat for cloistered nuns? Don't we pray "enough"?
Retreat is a time to renew and deepen our relationship with our loving Spouse. And that means extra prayer, certainly, but it also means time for a good, long, much needed nap, for enjoying simple things like crafts or hobbies we enjoy to do or maybe just catching up on mending.
Retreat time also means a time of deeper solitude. This is probably the part of retreat we enjoy the most! No community recreation, no reading or recordings at meals, early Compline are all means to give us a greater solitude which is so necessary for our life. It isn't that we don't love each other or enjoy each others company but we are here in the monastery together to "be intent on God". Paradoxically, the greater solitude of the annual retreat enables us to better live in community.
You might say that as proof that we are made for God and to be with God more intensely each day is how Sabina reacts to retreat. She DOES NOT LIKE RETREAT! Sisters make an effort to play with her or take her for a walk but she by the end of the first day she makes it very plain that retreat is for humans! She mopes. She gives us that "pity me" look. She does her best to make us feel guilty!
So, now retreat is over and today everyone is back to their usual work. The sisters are chatting away while doing the dishes. Hey, I gotta get down there! I don't want to miss a thing!