Twenty-six presbyters and three deacons from the Midwest Diocese enjoyed three stimulating days of prayer, reflection and rejuvenation March 1-3 at the Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction, Michigan.
As we kept with the nuns—and their heavenly, harmonious Byzantine chant—the full monastic cycle of offices, His Grace, Bishop Thomas, led the gathered clergy with his wit and words of encouragement. We also drew inspiration from the nuns as they radiated their joy in the Lord. They also gave us a tour of the new temple, presently under construction, standing at the center of the Monastery quadrangle. The nuns astounded us as they related how they have been doing much of the work themselves, including making forms and pouring concrete.
As retreat master, Fr. John Oliver, Pastor of St. Elizabeth the New Martyr Mission in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, delivered four well-prepared and articulately-delivered talks on “Intercession: the Last Hope for the World.” He reflected on the growing urgency for a vigorous ministry of intercessory prayer by Orthodox clergy—together with the royal priesthood of all believers—on behalf of the world, both inside and outside our parishes. Using the Litany of Peace as the model, Fr. John claimed that “The energy that drives the intercessory prayers of the Church is love.” Intercessory prayer flows out of love and preconditioned by inner peace. He outlined further Five Qualities of Prayerful Intercession:
- Personal holiness
- A willingness to enter into another’s pain
- Calling upon the Lord with focus, mindfully
- Confession of sin
- Persistence – patience for God’s time
In a concluding meeting with Sayidna, the clergy all expressed their appreciation for his initiative in holding the retreat and his calming, matter-of-fact leadership. The clergy also expressed their gratitude to the nuns and decided to resume holding annual retreats at the Dormition Monastery the first week of December of each year.