Saturday, July 16, 2011

Extreme retreats

My retreats often seem to feature extreme weather. There was the retreat where it rained. And rained. And rained. Or the year of the relentless heat, where five retreatants went off to the hospital. Or the Long Retreat, where blizzards (plural) and below zero temperatures were on tap.

This year was it was the heat again (though truly, what do you expect when you go on retreat over the fourth of July), and though there is no air conditioning in most of the Jesuit Center the heat wasn’t a particular distraction, and in many ways, welcome. A few days after my retreat, I was back up to see Robin (of Metanoia) who was here to make her retreat, and the talk at the dinner table was of ways to cope with the heat on retreat.

There are the obvious. Windows: open them. Shades: close them. Fans: turn them on. Water: don’t neglect to drink it. The pool: go — multiple times.

And the not so obvious. Use the wastebasket, or your running/walking shoes, to prop the door open enough for air circulation while preserving privacy. Look for cool places to pray -- the small air conditioned chapel, outside on the grass at midnight, sitting on the cool stone of the cloister or on the marble of the main chapel. Climb the weeping beech tree. Go to confession. (I teased my confessor that an unlooked for grace of celebrating the sacrament with him was a brief respite from the heat -- his office was air conditioned!)

And I will admit that one day, out to pick up a prescription, I made an unauthorized by my director stop at Rita’s Water Ice and had a vanilla custard with hot caramel sauce (for dinner). My director’s comment the next day when I confessed to seeking grace outside the gates? “If you turn right instead of left on 422, there’s a much closer ice cream place.”


  1. Anonymous2:29 AM

    Twenty two years ago (next month) I walked through those gates and started my two-year novitiate at Wernersville. I love hearing your stories about the place, as it brings back memories (it was hot then, too) and also an idea of how things have changed (no ice cream in walking distance back then!)

    Wernersville will always be a holy space for me. Even when I was on duty to clean all the bathrooms...

  2. Barbara Brown Taylor has a terrific reflection on the sacred side of cleaning bathrooms...

    Happy anniversary!