The pulse of the Abbey: a retreat in the monastery

Carisma 10

 

'Young man, don´t forget the prayer. In your prayer, if it is sincere, there will always emerge a new feeling and a new thought, that you haven't thought before. It will give you new courage" Starets Zosima, monk and spiritual advisor in The Karamazov Brothers by Fiodor Dostojevski

A body with a pulse is alive. Maybe it is the same with our soul? Maybe there is a pulse needed in our soul for it to live and prosper? In the centuries-old tradition of monasteries this seems to be a fundamental thought. Pray and work, Ora et labora, go together, day after day.

The Holy Benedict, patron Saint of Europe and founder of the Benedictine order, writes in his regula of the 6th century that monks shall pray together seven times every day. From the early matutin at daybreak through the completorium in the evening. The prayer, mainly through reciting the Book of Psalms, becomes the pulse in the monastery.

Maybe it´s the pulse of the Abbey of Montecassinio I love so much and maybe it´s the pulse that keeps me coming back every year? I don´t speak Italian, so the monks hardly understand me and I don´t understand them. But there is something, maybe a wordless companionship, almost friendship, that develops between us. Is that what keeps me coming back? Or is it possibly the 'otherness' of monastic life that keeps pulling me back for a few days of retreat? That it is so very different from everyday urban family life I normally lead? Maybe.

Or maybe it´s the indescribable beauty of the monastery and its surroundings? For I know few places in the world as beautiful. It makes me breathless every time. Or is it maybe that centuries and centuries of prayers from monks, civilians or World War II front soldiers are speaking softly from the walls to me? Even though the walls were rebuilt after the demolition in 1944, they speak to me from generations of believers, softly whispering: "Fredrik, it´s OK. You´re not alone. We all seek peace. We all seek Christ."

The first time I spent a few days in Montecassino was in 2008. Since then I have returned almost every year. Checking in often empty, hungry for peace and the comfort of Christ. Checking out a few days later, ready to return to my everyday busy life. Bearing the pulse from the daily prayers with me. And all the other things Montecassino means to me. I do not know why I return so often. I only know that I will, again, in the future. God willing.

Fredrik Hoggren, minister,
Church of Sweden (Lutheran)