Posted by: Shawn Ragan | June 10, 2009

Home from the Monastery

Since our journey to the historic Christian Faith began, I have had the opportunity to take a trip to a monastery on a few occasions.  This was something I looked forward to doing.

As a Protestant pastor, I went on retreat about 3 times a year to a local Roman Catholic monastery, about 2 hours away.  I had always enjoyed my time there, and I was able to get quite a bit accomplished.  As I journeyed to Orthodoxy, though, the desire to go to an Orthodox monastery increased.  I also wanted to go for different reasons.  I attended some of the services at the Roman Catholic monastery, but that was not why I went.  I went to work.

In Orthodoxy, though, my desire was to attend the services…and to meet the holy men and women of the monasteries who pray for the world almost constantly.  This is another aspect of Orthodox Christianity that still makes me stand in awe.  There are always prayers going, on behalf of the whole world.  Right now, Orthodox Christians are praying the services, and praying for everyone – the living and the dead.

“The Universal Church of Christ offereth prayers every day for the reposed; every hour the sins of the world are washed away by the Most-pure Blood of the Divine Lamb…”

Ekos 7, Akathist for the Repose of the Departed

In a monastery, one can participate in the liturgical life of the Church even more – as the monastery often has more of the services of the Church than a parish can offer.  One gets up early to attend services, and then stands on their feet for great lengths of time.

Two years ago there was a Men’s Lenten Retreat at the Monastery of St. John the Forerunner in Goldendale, WA.  This is a women’s monastery, and they alternate years between Men and Women’s Lenten Retreats.  Two years ago, I couldn’t go.  Tori would have flipped – she was not happy I was even looking at Orthodoxy.  If you have followed my blog, then you know she wanted away from Christianity altogether at that time.

Later that year, I was invited to a monastery in California by Fr. Patrick, where then Fr. Jonah (now Metropolitan Jonah of the OCA) was the abbot.  Tori was not excited about the idea, and I had other obligations so I stayed home.

Last summer, some friends went to a monastery over by Seattle.  Again, I couldn’t go.  Tori’s views were changing, but she wasn’t there yet.  I was also leaving the pastorate, and money was tight.

In February of this year, my soon to be godfather and godbrother went to a monastery on Arizona (or was it New Mexico?  Arizona I think).  I wanted to go, but I had been laid off, so again, I was not able to.  When they came back I was able to hear about the amazing time they had, though.

Finally, this year was the Men’s Lenten Retreat at St. John’s in Goldendale.  I was registered.  I was packed.  The car was rented, the trip was paid for, and Tori was sick with some heart problems.  We were leaving Friday morning, and Thursday night Tori’s problem started acting up again.  Friday morning she was sick in bed.  I finagled, I tried, but I did not go.  I stayed home, again.

A good friend of mine, Peter, wants to go to a monastery in the Fall – one up in Canada.  I am looking forward to that.

Oh yeah, the title – home from the monastery.  Not me.  Tori got home last night from her first trip to the monastery.  She was frightened to go when the opportunity first arose last week.  By the time they left, she was at peace.  She had a fantastic time.

“I can’t believe you have never been to a monastery!” she told me when she got home.  I smiled.

“It was amazing.  I got up at 4 in the morning to go to services, and t was great.  The singing was like angels!  I can’t even explain it.  You just have to be there to understand,” she told me.

That is true with our Holy Faith.  It is not something you can understand by reading a book or looking on the internet.  Nor is it something you will get by watching ten or fifteen minutes of a service.  One must enter into it – to come to the Church, to pray, to truly worship with the Saints and the Angels.  One must participate in her life, and then they will understand.

So Tori is home from the monastery, and I look forward to my first trip, which will probably not be until after our family’s baptism on August 1st.  I asked Tori if she would go again: “Definitely, in fact this year (Lent 2010)  is the Women’s Lenten Retreat…”

I could only smile and thank God for my wife and this blessed and Holy Faith.



  1. Hey Shawn,
    How great, but which monastery did she go to and was it for a particulare thing???? My inquiring mind thinks it needs to know these things….hahaha Anyway, How great! it has been a pleasure to hear and see your growth into Orthodoxy… May God continue to bless you all.

  2. Isn’t that the LORD! YOU wanted it so much, and HE sent Tori. I love it.
    Well, in God’s good time…
    I can’t wait to see you in July.
    Fr Patrick

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