People will smile and call me “Flower Child,” though I’m 80, when they see the floral wreath atop my ancient Subaru. Why? they ask. Because it makes me happy, I say, and I hope it makes you happy too. We connect – perhaps a child, a truck driver, a fellow gardener.
My husband, Jerry and I are New Yorkers, but when he retired twelve years ago, we became “snow birds” in Tarpon Springs to winter near his family. After 56 years of marriage, Jerry died in New York last September and I moved permanently to our Florida home. I lost not only the love of my life, but wise friends and neighbors of 40 years, my Franciscan Spiritual Director, a vibrant church community, my many gardens and my Spiritual Home, Mount Saviour Benedictine Monastery. I have been an oblate there for all those 40 years.
Grateful for my countless blessings, I know God is emptying me to make more room for God. But what does this mean? I grieve and grieve deeply. Jesus is ever more with me now though I have followed His way all my life. Now the Spirit is calling me in my dawn meditations out of my darkness and my Valley of the Shadow. I trust, I wonder and I follow.
Three days ago, the Spirit led me to Holy Name. Truly a haven for this searching soul. The Sisters’ warm welcome, the prayerful chapel, the flourishing roses and aquaponic greenhouse, the privilege of my hands in the soil. At last, at last the welcome to weed God’s gardens, to care for the earth amid the calls of the wood storks, the smell of the newly mowed meadow, the celestial starlight. And on top of all these gifts, Sister Miriam has agreed to be my Spiritual Director. I will return monthly and see where this new journey leads me. Deo Gratias!
Judith Grant – August 2018
My Bucket List
Going to a monastery has always been on my bucket list. I am a mental health therapist and my husband is the pastor at a church, so a lot of times I find myself doing the work of God rather than resting in God. My husband gifted me a retreat to stay with the Benedictine Sisters for Mother’s Day. This is the best Mother’s Day gift I have received. I really enjoyed the solitude and opportunity to connect with God all while getting to interact with the sisters. I met with Sister Mary David daily and she gave several scriptures to reflect on and taught me the Benedictine was of doing this. While I was there I prayed, walked on the prayer circle, journaled, did the stations of the cross through the assistance of one of the sisters, went to the Abbey across the street, participated in the sisters prayer time and Mass, reflected on scripture, and, as Sister Mary David would say, I had a lot of Holy Leisure just being aware of the presence of God through nature. It was salve for my weary soul. I plan to come back (often) and am hoping to bring a group of woman from my church. I am very appreciative of the sisters and the opportunity for this type of retreat.
Karen Culbertson – May 2018
A “Spiritual B&B”
I recently had the opportunity to stay at Holy Name Monastery while attending a week-end graduate school conference at Saint Leo University. I had several reasons not to attend the conference because of the cost in travel from Virginia; leaving seven children (from age 3 to age 18); having to take time off my job as a 911 Dispatcher; and putting all my family responsibilities on my husband Brian’s shoulders.
We moms care for everyone – our children, husband, parents, friends and neighbors. Taking time to care for ourselves is not a priority. But have I ever learned by spending time with the Sisters! My husband (a fireman) and I have recently been arguing and having trouble solving our conflicts. Big decisions have been weighing me down over whether it would be best to wait to do my second year of graduate school; the advisability of keeping my very stressful job which I’ve held for ten years; and my marital relationship was as shaky as I was fearing…all keeping me from sleep and from thinking clearly.
My stay at the monastery was not planned nor was it what I expected, but the experience was profound. My stress level and insomnia were just accepted as part of my life. I never dreamed that spending time in such a quiet, peaceful place would bring such peace and awareness. The Sisters were incredibly nurturing and service oriented. Though not Catholic, I even decided to attend prayers and Mass. It was definitely God’s plan for me to be here! Even the meals with the Sisters brought me back to wonderful memories of my grandmother’s home and how it felt when she cared for me.
Being cared for and cared about by the Sisters, prayer, time to be introspective, walks in the gardens, talking to God and sleeping soundly, have brought me back to what is important. My perspective has dramatically changed, my energy is renewed and clarity is firm. I had no idea how much I needed that time. Even my husband, since my return home, has seen that I’m more relaxed and easier to talk with. And those big decisions have been made – I will attend my second year of grad school and next year begin a new career helping people in the field of social work.
Family life can still be hectic at times, but I’m grateful for a path and a new sensitivity to the importance of prayer and reflection in my life.
In telling all my friends and work colleagues about my stay, they said it sounds like a “Spiritual B&B.” For me, it is extraordinary that God brought me to Holy Name and a life-changing revelation whether I knew it was needed or not!
Kristina Moore – August 2017
A very nice gentleman on a personal retreat stopped by the Advancement Office. Settling the bill was on his
mind. When asked if his stay was good, he replied “Yes, it was a meaningful couple of days.” It seems that he
had some very real questions for God and thought being at Holy Name would be helpful in resolving what was
troubling him. Hesitating for a moment, further explanation centered on the fact that answers were received.
He seemed surprised yet pleased. ‘You know,’ he explained, ‘sometimes it takes much longer for God to
respond, but this was fairly quick.’ With a big smile, the gentleman bid us farewell.”
Anonymous – October 2017