As we consider the momentous occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the Benedictine Center on August 15, 2023, we are grateful for the many gatherings and retreats that have occurred in this sacred space over the last four decades. These retreat experiences have changed lives—whether it is a parish group that comes together for a weekend to listen to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit speaking through their priest, minister or one another, or a dazzling classroom program such as the School of Lectio Divina or the School of Discernment.
It was in the School of Lectio Divina where we learned to read the Scriptures in a new way, “and the Scriptures read you.” God speaks to us individually through this ancient practice of holy reading. In the School of Discernment, we learned to sort our thoughts, according to what is from God and not from God, discarding afflictive thoughts that are no longer useful. We pause, pray and meditate, listening always with the ear of our heart. “Come, Holy Spirit, Come,” we pleaded, and were led through many tough situations and heavy decisions. The decision-making process became lighter, less burdensome. God always comes through for us and leads us out of the brambles and thorns of the twisted path. What a miracle it is to finally see the clear blue horizon.
My own life has been changed by attending Benedictine Center retreats—one in the spring of 2000 at the former monastery at 2675 Larpenteur, when the Cathedral of St. Paul RCIA class spent a day with our beloved pastor to learn more about the faith and the amazing joy we would come to know as newly confirmed Catholics. We were also invited then to seek spiritual direction at the Monastery—which I did and met Sister Carol Rennie. Another crucial event was a Centering Prayer retreat in November 2019 with Carol Quest, Jody Reis Johnson, and Sister Virginia Matter, where I was introduced to Centering Prayer meditation that I now practice regularly, with healing benefits of peace I never imagined were possible. Many of you could share similar stories.
Transformation also occurs regularly with individual retreatants, who arrive for a day, an overnight, or a weekend, rolling their suitcase down the hall, looking for some relief from the world and some silence. The silence here is a special kind. The air is rarified. These twelve rooms have known so many guests who come to pray and read and rest in God. The walls are imbued with their prayers. (Father Thomas Keating himself stayed in Room 112.) It is our hope that these rooms in this quiet corridor—in whatever new assignments the future may hold—will always be a retreat center.
We are grateful for our many guests and supporters, especially those individuals and groups who return monthly, quarterly, and year after year. They know of the riches that can be found here. Faithfully, they return, and we are here to greet them, striving to welcome all guests as Christ.
May God bless you as you seek to know Him and live lives of peace, continuing on this always surprising spiritual journey, following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit awaits you in this sacred place.
Mary Elizabeth Ilg, OblSB
Co-Director, Benedictine Center
St. Paul’s Monastery