This week (if we can avoid the snowstorm that is supposedly heading our way), the Notre Dame Folk Choir will be heading off on a "quiet adventure," traveling about 6 hours directly south, to the Abbey of Gethsemani, in Trappist Kentucky.
We make this trip about every two years, if we can. And it's an integral part of what we do as a choir. Paradoxical, some might think - that in order to figure out ways to better make a joyful noise, our inclination would be to go someplace utterly silent. But our longstanding relationship with the monks has taught us that this is one of the very best things we can do.
Every year we travel to Gethsemani, we choose a particular theme for our time together. Two years ago, the theme was "Tuning the Heart." Our superb Campus Ministry intern at the time, Jessica Mannen, put together a marvelous prayer/meditation/journal resource for the ensemble, complete with a new song, "Tune My Heart," based on the writings of Thomas Merton.
This year's theme, which also embraces the blessed silence of the monastery, is "Serenity." We have a superb new CM intern, Emily Puscas, who has been working on the student talks and helping to articulate the theme with our traveling chaplain, Fr. Drew Gawrych, c.s.c. We will be focusing on the three elements of Reinhold Neibuhr's famous Serenity Prayer – looking for courage, seeking wisdom, so that serenity is a pervasive element in our spiritual landscape.
It's an important message to carry with us, in a society that is so bent on constant multi-tasking, video games that extol violence as a captivating pastime, and gadgets that rob us of any time for contemplation. Hopefully, the silence of Gethsemani will be something that brings us all closer together as a prayer community and gives us a great start to the spring semester of 2012.
While we're there, we offer a special concert for the monastic community and friends of the Abbey. Like the retreat itself, this concert is an integral part of the weekend, allowing us the chance to leave a little musical gift to our gracious hosts.
So for those of you (especially choir alums) who read up on our activities through this blog, please keep us in your prayers over the next few days! This time is always sacred to us in the choir, and we hope it will yield great spiritual insights for all involved.