I had a wonderful retreat last week in the Monastere St. Benoit, La Garde Freinet.
La Garde Freinet is a beautiful village in the Maures Mountains in Provencal. It is a little over an hours drive from Nice Airport and about 40 minutes from St. Tropez.
The monastery is an initiative of Mons. Rey, the Bishop of Frejus-Toulon and follows the rule of St Benedict. The monastery came into existence in December 2011. The Liturgy used is the traditional monastic one. While there I participated in the Office and celebrated Mass every day in the Traditional rite.
The monastery is excellent for a retreat as there are many walks nearby. Every day I walked to the Cross which is at the top of the mountain and in the afternoon took a longer walk. I will put some photo's on the blog over the next few days (hopefully I will have sorted out a technical glitch by then).
When the Monastery opened last year I applied to be an Oblate and for the last year I was a Postulate. On the 12 of December this year I became the monastery's first Oblate and in the monastery I am known as Brother Columbanus.( There are some photo's here)
An Oblate is person who becomes affiliated to a particular monastery and lives the Rule of St. Benedict in their everyday life. In the monastery of St Benoit the Oblate is given the Black Scapulat of the monks ( a shorter version) and a Cross containing the image and medal of St. Benedict. You can read all about the oblates in this monastery here.
Having a rule of life is a great help in the spiritual life. It helps one to keep focused. The rule of St. Benedict is very adaptable for life outside of the monastery. St. Benedict's rule constantly calls us to conversion. The Liturgical life is central to the Benedictine way of life indeed St. Benedict calls it the work of God, Opus Dei. The Liturgy then is important to the Oblate and should be foremost in their spiritual life. An oblate is expected to attend the liturgy as often as is possible and to say ( again if possible ) the Hours.The minimum required is to say at least the office of Prime. Since I already pray the office one little change is to say the office of prime from the Monastic Breviary.
I left the monastery on Thursday and went to Nice. My hotel was in central Nice and just outside was a Fair. They had many stalls and at least three dedicated to Christmas cribs. Those beautiful French cribs that have so much background scenery. Friday morning I walked the old town of Nice, I never realised how many beautiful Churches are in this part of the town. The Cathedral was undergoing some works so I did not see to much of it, scaffolding and screens everywhere. Between the constant hammering, background music and tourists talking it was not really conducive to prayer.
I found a lovely church dedicated to the Annunciation for my morning meditation.
Taking a retreat in Advent is a good way to prepare for Christmas, but it may not be possible for everyone so why not go off for at least a day from the crowd and be alone with God and your thoughts.