St. Simeon Skete, Taylorsville Kentucky USA

With St. Simeon, the God receiver, as our patron, the skete seeks to practice the ideals found in our Rule, The Thousand Day Nazareth. In simplicity and poverty, the skete embraces the struggle of inner life through the practice of the Prayer Rope.

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Donations should be addressed to: Nazareth House Apostolate, 185 Captains Cove Drive, Taylorsville, Kentucky 40071.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The City Desert Rosary Retreat (Mk.6:31).

In retreat we "come apart" (Mk. 6:31) for the purpose of returning "another way" (Mt. 2:12). This journey is made from the hands that hold the beads to the head that holds the Mysteries, to the heart that holds the Life and to the world that needs "another way" (Jn. 14:6).

The traditional Rosary Retreat can be made by one or more people. There is a focus on learning to pray the Rosary more faithfully and how to find everyday events hidden in the Mysteries of the Rosary.  These retreats can focus on a single Mystery to all twenty.  Other subjects could be the history of the Rosary, the live of those who have embodied this practice, the discovery and evolving of the Rosary in one's life, creative ways to pray the Rosary, its propagation and imitation, etc.  So, as the old saying goes, "come apart" before you come apart.

The alternative Rosary Retreat: As I pen these lines I've just returned from a visit to the New Camaldolese Hermits of Big Sur, California, USA.  The Hermitage is located on an eight hundred acre sanctuary in the rugged Santa Lucia Mountains of Big Sur.

New Camaldoli Hermitage area, Big Sur, CA  (photo by V A Hicks) 

Located 1,300 feet above sea level the Hermitage provides a spectacular view of the ever changing Pacific Ocean.  There is an abundance  of bird life as if the bushes were dripping with them.

Big Sur, California Coastline   (photo by V A Hicks) 

The drive down Highway 1 is a retreat in itself as it hugs the rocky coastline with many scenic pull offs.

Big Sur, California Coastline   (photo by V A Hicks) 

The Camaldolese of Big Sur is idyllic with many places to walk in contemplating the Mysteries of the Rosary.

New Camaldoli Hermitage area, Big Sur, CA  (photo by V A Hicks) 

America and countries abroad abound with such places and I highly recommend them.

New Camaldoli Hermitage area, Big Sur, CA  (photo by V A Hicks) 

But having said that, I have a different kind of Rosary Retreat in mind. It is based on the idea of being a resident force of prayer in the marketplace.  What I'm suggesting instead of booking a room at a retreat center, book a room in some needy city.  Since many are willing to travel great distances to remote places of beauty to make a retreat, why not be just as willing to travel to distant cities to make a retreat?

The City Rosary Retreat begins by praying for God's leading.  Be open; the city God may lead you to might be your own or one across the world.  In planning for this retreat give prayerful attention to Colossians 4:2,3.

"Continue in prayer, and watch 
in the same with thanksgiving; 
praying also for us, that God would 
open unto us a door of utterance." 

The word "watch" carries with it the idea of intelligence, praying with knowledge.  Therefore once you've found the city for this retreat, begin to educate yourself about its make up, such things as its basic demographics of industry, growth, crime rate, religion, poverty, its physical make up, challenges, etc.  You may want to assign a theme for the city and the retreat.  The rest is simple, book the room near to the heart of the city and make your travel arrangements.  

To set the tenor of this kind of retreat study, meditate and pray "The Four Tenets" of the Nazareth House Apostolate which are:

  • In a savorless world may I be salt (Mt. 5:13)
  • In a darkened world may I be light (Mt. 5:14-16)
  • In a flattened world may I be leaven (Mt. 13:13)
  • In a barren world may I be branch (Jn. 15:5) 
Make notes and jot down your own ideas.  Create a kind of research manual and journal to record your findings and challenges.  

Conducting the Retreat - At this point you've arrived at your chosen city and are in your room.  Once you've settled in, create a space of prayer facing east (Mt. 24:27).

Holy Corner set up facing East in Hotel Room  (photo by V A Hicks) 

Ask God for His protection and leading in this retreat. Pray the Primer (from The (NHA) Jesus Life Rosary) "God be in my head and in my understanding, God be in my ears and in my hearing; God be in my eyes and in my looking; God be in my mouth and in my speaking; God be in my heart and in my thinking; God be in my end and in my departing" and remain in silence for a while.  Before you rise dedicate the retreat to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31).  Now its time to go out onto the streets (Lk. 14:23).  Walk for awhile, sit, see the people in each bead you pray and each bead prayed in the people, "Jesus your Life is living in me, Jesus your Life is living in me (Col. 1:27)..." Take on the pain, the greed, the loneliness, the arrogancy, the fear, the apathy as well as the kindness, love and care that you find and offer it to God for He is the only one who knows what to do with it, if you forget this then look at the Cross.  As you walk among the tall buildings your beads will grow heavier and heavier with what they are taking in and with what they're giving out, "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." (Rom. 5:20).  Find a bench and sit for awhile and remind yourself that God sees all of this and He knows - God sees, God hears, God knows, and God comes, (Exodus 3:7,8).

Street Retreat (photo by V A Hicks) 

After a few hours of this street work go back to your room and kneel in your prayer place and talk to God about what you're feeling.  As you do this speak out loud, let it be a conversation and not a monologue.  In this conversation God may direct you to a portion of Scripture, to write in your journal or be silent.  After this it may be time to take a rest and perhaps eat something.  What you are trying to know is what is knowing you - what you are trying to see is seeing you - what you are trying to hear is hearing you.  To know, see, and hear this is to discover the "what" to be the He who knows, sees and hears.

Soon its time to go out again, but to a different location.  If the courthouse and jail is within walking distance go there and pray for the release of Jesus in the courtrooms and those incarcerated.  Pray for the families of those who have been jailed, for the police, lawyers and judges.  Remember Colossian 4:3 "praying that God would open unto us a door of utterance".   May your beads be the utterance on behalf of those who no longer have a voice. 

"Remember them that are in bonds,
as bound with them; and them which
suffer adversity, as being yourselves
also in the body" - Heb. 13:3 

You may next walk through the shopping district.  What are the various stores saying with what they're selling?  In this area you may want to use the finger Rosary i.e. counting on your fingers. 

Sometimes you may spend most of your time in your room or on the street, let the Spirit lead.  These retreats can last from one to five days. 

The practicals of the City Rosary Retreat are pretty straight forward.  Dress appropriately so you'll blend in, don't set yourself apart.  I carry a haversack with whatever materials I think I'll need.  Presently my bag holds a copy of the Gospels, a prayer-mat, a compass for Easting, a couple of extra rosaries to give away if the opportunity arises, my Prayer Rope, a couple of relics, bus schedules, small notebook and a bottle of water.  If you plan on going into the very poor sections of the city I caution you not to do so unless you have, as they say, "street smarts".  I remember one time I was praying down by a river and a man pulled a knife on me. I laughed and said "that's the best you have, I've got something better than that here - look", as I lifted my Prayer Rope (Rosary).  As I explained, his knife began to lower. I was able to teach him the rosary.  I left him with one of the Rosaries from my bag and a pamphlet of Rosary Basics. I tell you this to remind you that just as there is as much sin among the poor as there is among the rich - there is also as much redemption as well.  

As far as eating may I suggest finding a middle of the road restaurant so that you can "break bread" with those you've come to pray in the midst of.  If you yourself are poor than eat at one of the local "soup kitchens".  

The Rule for these kinds of retreats, as in much of our undertaking, is to be creative and use common sense (James 1:5).    - Seraphim