Taking a Spiritual Vacation

As the old Chicago song says, “everybody needs a little time away.” Summer is the time for vacations: taking trips to the beach or other places we can relax, spending time together with family and friends and experiencing new places and things.

So it may seem strange to many of you that 26 of our fellow parishioners spent a summer day driving an hour and a half to a monastery, stood for long services, and considered it a vacation!

Of course a pilgrimage to a monastery is very different than a typical vacation, but the reality is that our souls need to go on vacation just as much as our minds and bodies do! I could talk about the many benefits of a pilgrimage or visiting a monastery. I could talk about the kind of spiritual attentiveness that only comes by spending more time in church. How the fellowship with other pilgrims is such a confirmation to the soul. How the quietness and beauty of a monastery satisfies in a way different than our shorter time in services here at home. But rather than me doing that, I’ll let you hear from my fellow pilgrims in their own words.

“There was a very special Blessing for me today.  When Bishop Anthony was giving his sermon about the Theotokos he said the “Hail Mary” Prayer that my Grandma and my mom know. Grandma was Catholic. When I heard him recite the prayer and make the sign of the cross, I felt her with me.  It brought tears to my eyes, but made me happy as well.  We miss them all!”

“The obvious blessing from today was a renewal of peace & spirituality in my soul! I loved the monastery! The best blessing though is becoming closer to our church family. I had never even spoken to one of the women on the trip with us! The worship we do together brings us closer.”

“I liked being away from everyday life. It gave me some time to bond with my boys, in an Orthodox environment. I also connected with fellow parishioners.”

“We were so blessed today. To be together as the family of Saint Nicholas attending the most beautiful service of the year, the day to honor our Theotokos.”

“The monastery will always hold a special place in my heart, and what happened during holy unction this afternoon will be no exception to how I feel at the moment. I almost cried during particular moments of the service because off how humbling it was when the stole was placed upon my head. I wanted to kneel down every time that happened and cling to the priest’s vestments, remaining there while allowing my heart to run freely wherever it wished to go.”

“Spending a Great Feast with so many other Orthodox Christians from around the world, outdoors, was a one of a kind experience.  I’ve never seen so many clergy in one place.  It was a very festive Dormition Feast!

Now that you’ve read their words, let me share my appreciation for having Holy Dormition Monastery so close to us and encourage everyone to make a visit. You can go for service and stay for a few hours or schedule a two or three day spiritual retreat. No matter what the duration of your visit, you will come to appreciate the enormous resource we have that is such a short drive away. For more information on visiting the Monastery, see their website or schedule a time to chat with me and I can share some of the “ins and outs” of visiting there.

I hope this summer has (or will) bring all of us some vacation time to rest our weary bodies and minds. And I hope we’ll all start to think of our next “spiritual vacation” and receive the blessings of time at the Monastery. Everybody needs a little time away.