A day with the Maronites

On Friday, four of us postulants (Jeremy, Leland, Colin and I) went for our day of recollection to the Most Holy Trinity Monastery in Petersham, Mass. This day was optional because of our trip to Vermont on Columbus Day weekend. But with the hustle of schoolwork catching up to me, I needed a day of prayer.

The Most Holy Trinity Monastery outside Petersham, Mass.
The Most Holy Trinity Monastery outside Petersham, Mass.

The Maronite monks were hospitable. The guestmaster, Father Patrick, showed us around and guided us through the Maronite forms of the Liturgy of the Hours and of the Divine Liturgy (Mass). The abbot chatted with us after Evening Prayer on Friday night and Saturday night. Father William was very familiar with the Oblates of the Virgin Mary and praised us on our spiritual journey.

The monks follow the Maronite rite, based in Lebanon. The liturgy retains some of their prayers in the Syriac, a language related to Aramaic. This is as close to hearing the language that Jesus had spoken in the Holy Land in the 1st century A.D. This was my first exposure to one of the many Eastern rites in the Catholic Church. I appreciated the depth of the prayers and reverence in the liturgy. Anyone who is in the Latin rite (most Catholics in the U.S.) should experience at least once in their life an Eastern-rite liturgy. The differences might be jarring. But in the end, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is still there, waiting for us.

The chapel at the Most Holy Trinity Monastery outside Petersham.
The chapel at the Most Holy Trinity Monastery outside Petersham.  (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Lee)

I prayed mostly in the chapel.  The marble floor sometimes sparkled.  I gave God all my burdens that had dogged me for a few weeks. I received many insights and consolations in my prayers. The Virgin Mary was there to console and cheer me on.

In between my prayers, I would walk around the grounds. The trees were vibrant with fall colors, red, orange and yellow.

Trees near the Most Holy Trinity Monastery outside Petersham, Mass.
Trees near the Most Holy Trinity Monastery outside Petersham, Mass.

I even ventured into the nearby forest. Father Patrick suggested a path that ran straight. I found that it was mostly straight. Eventually, it would twist and turn. I became concern about being lost.

“Is there a way out of these woods?” I wondered outside the Most Holy Trinity Monastery near Petersham, Mass.

I began to search out landmarks like boulders and ribbons around trees. I even made arrows out of fallen branches that pointed back. I had told myself that at 10 a.m., I would turn around, no matter where I was. Two minutes to 10, a pair of bushes partly blocked the way. Well, I thought, I might as well go back. I retraced my times. I found the ribbons, the arrows and the boulders. Thank God, I made it back to the main road after 20 minutes.

The library and bookstore in the visitors’ center had a good selection of books. Jeremy found some gems.

Jeremy reads one of the books at the visitors' center at the Most Holy Trinity Monastery in Petersham, Mass.
Jeremy reads one of the books at the visitors’ center at the Most Holy Trinity Monastery in Petersham, Mass.  (Photo courtesy of Leland Thorpe)

Of course, books by a well-known Oblate lined the shelves.

The monastery were offering books by Father Timothy Gallagher, OMV.
The monastery were offering books by Father Timothy Gallagher, OMV.

But I didn’t find any worth reading. But toward the end of the stay, I bought this book: “The Price to Pay” by Joseph Fardelle. I haven’t finished it, but I found the story of an Iraqi’s conversion to Christianity and his subsequent suffering very intriguing.

My only complaint was the stinky water from the tap. The groundwater had sulphur in it. Jeremy said that such water had medicinal and health benefits. But I prefer not to smell rotten eggs every time I open the tap.

Still, I want to come back for a longer retreat. This day of recollection brought clarity and respite. Well, I better start studying. Project deadlines and midterms are coming closer.

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