Embracing the Silence: A Reflection on our Retreat to Holy Cross Monastery
During the first weekend in October we travelled to Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY. I felt very close to home during this retreat, as it was just a short drive away from where I went to College in Poughkeepsie, NY. On the way to the monastery we stopped in Poughkeepsie and I showed the rest of the Hildans around the Walkway Over the Hudson, an old railroad bridge which has been converted into a pedestrian walkway offering beautiful views of the Hudson Valley. On the way back we also stopped by Vassar College, my alma mater, and I was able to give the Hildans a quick tour of campus. I enjoyed being able to share these places that are special to me with the rest of the Hildans as part of our retreat.
Once we arrived at the monastery a few of us went for a walk on some trails around the monastery grounds and down to the banks of the Hudson River. Even though it was cold and rainy, I enjoyed being able to get out into the quiet and calmness of nature, away from New Haven. When evening came we entered what is called the great silence, a period of silence observed everyday in the monastery from 8:30pm-8:30am. When the silence began, I went up to my room in the monastery and was disappointed when I realized that I hadn’t brought my laptop, or anything else with which to entertain myself. After sitting in my room for a little while I became bored and decided to just go to sleep.
The next morning, the great silence extended through breakfast. At first I thought this would be strange, but after arriving at breakfast and sitting with a group of guests I had never met before, I found it very relaxing to just be among a group of people and not feel the need to fill the silence with small talk. That night when the great silence began once again, rather than being bored as I was the night before, I realized that I was grateful for a period of time to just do nothing but think and relax. One of the main things I think I will take away from this retreat is that it is important to take time to be quiet and just do nothing. I think it is important to have these moments of quiet both alone and when among groups of people, and to acknowledge that is okay to be alone and seemingly do nothing or to be with other people and not talk.