To the ones that made me feel like home for five days straight, that made me promise to never change who I am, that loved my sense of humour, that have golden and open hearts, that warmly welcomed us, that cook super well, that encouraged me to serve, that are bold in their faith, that were our second or third mothers to us, that have a height I look up to, that can sing, draw, and be talented like no one else, that are soft in their manners like doves, that are funnier than America’s best comedians, that share a passion for books, that are little innocent geniuses, that have the best semi-broken Arabic, that know how to read Arabic and Coptic (props to youuuuu), that are wannabe Montrealers, and that are amazing travelling companions… this article is for you.
Last week, I embarked on a short spiritual trip. I had no idea, not even the slightest clue on what to expect. No one told me what we were going to do, nor what to expect from a week at a monastery. I didn’t even know who from church was going to the trip. And you know what? Not knowing anything led to the best surprise ever.
Prior to leaving for Texas, I was living in anxiety for a good month or two and nothing seemed to get better. I love my life and what I do for a living, but work started to be demanding and my spiritual life was going through a season of drought. My relationship with God felt almost non-existant and loneliness’s lies kept knocking at my door once in a while. It was time to take a break. A sunny and peaceful break with Jesus.
Before leaving Montreal, I thought the trip would be touristic, at least during half the week. However, when I was told I would follow a strict schedule, wake up at 4am, fast until 2pm, and work under the burning Texan sun (not to mention being surrounded by insects I never knew existed), it’s no surprise my spoiled-brat-who-loves-having-fun-and-lives-in-a-capitalist-world mindset was troubled. My anxiety did not only reach its peak, it exceeded it.
In the sky, on our way to Texas
After a whole day of catching flights, we finally landed in Corpus Christi. Then we hopped in a van and after what felt like thirty minutes, we arrived at the monastery.
When I first stepped out of the van, I looked around me and was left speechless. I felt like a kid who, after X number of days of walking, found herself in Wonderland. It had indeed been a while since I was surrounded by an omnipresence of nature. Seeing the water, the very hot sun, which is quite shy in Canada, the bright blue sky with pink-tinted clouds, and just the colour green in general was like looking at a serene painting in a gallery. This made me think of Egypt instantly, particularly the palm trees.
My week at the monastery was one of the best weeks I had this year. Half of 2019 has passed already and that trip is my coup de cœur so far! Here are the reasons why:
- I made new friends and our whole group became a small family. It’s as if we had been friends for many years already. It’s safe to say no one felt left out. We were able to be a 100% ourselves without anyone being judged. It was so freeing to be able to ask questions without fear.
- Every single monk we met taught us something deeply insightful for our souls. Every talk, conversation, bible reading, and Q&A session was educational, emotional, and raw. We were discovering the truth of our faith for a second time, as if it were the first. We were encouraged to be firm in our Christian values, while embodying love.
- Love and laughter were at the core of our trip. I mentioned earlier how amazing the group was. As a matter of fact, every person I met has a golden and pure soul. Not only was love found in my friends’ hearts, but also in our priest and his beautiful wife and children, as well as in the monks and the local people serving at the monastery. We even found love during “work” hours and enjoyed serving and accomplishing tasks like cleaning and gardening.
- Attending the morning prayers before sunrise and partaking the Body of Christ every single day was an experience out of this world. It brings you closer to God so naturally that the devil tries to insert thoughts of, for instance, fatigue, for you to not attend liturgy. Participating in all these prayer times created a new habit in me that I want to continue pursuing now that I am back to Canada.
- The food is delicious and the cook is gifted!
- Fasting until 2pm is actually not that big of a deal, especially when being distracted by good things, such as work, prayer time, service, etc.
In conclusion, spending a week at the abbey made me realize that I don’t need much to be happy, to survive, and to feel alive. On a side note, one week is not enough at all. I admit I was excited to go back to my comfortable routine (and bed), but not as much as usual. In fact, I was quite sad and even got teary-eyed at the idea of leaving a warm and peaceful shelter, a place that made me forget every single one of my worries altogether. My anxious heart had indeed healed and my questions were answered. My trust in God was also strengthened. I got attached to my new group of friends and to the monks. I unashamedly cried like a baby on the last flight back to Montreal.
I was mainly sad because I knew that the memories we created during that week were gone the second we left the monastery. Although they remain in our hearts forever, these memories will never come back. As Stevie Wonder sings it well, “nothing gold can stay.”