Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

A community retreat

By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published April 3, 2014

We are on our community retreat, which takes place every year during Lent. Sister Kathryn Huber, a Benedictine sister from the Benedictine community in Ferdinand, Indiana, is giving the retreat. She is delightful. Her talks are wonderful and when she shared her life story with us at the beginning of the retreat, she mentioned that she was born in Starlight, Indiana. I liked that. Something of her birthplace has obviously guided her all through her life. I once read somewhere that traces of stardust can be found in the human body. Do we come from long ago stars?  Maybe. But I think it is real nice that a town took to itself starlight from far away. Sister Kathryn is sharing with us ways of allowing another kind of light, a light that sometimes seems so far away, to shine here, in our midst.

She gave a talk on community. As she spoke, I was taking notes and thought to myself how many times over the years I have written the same jottings during a retreat. But a retreat takes into account the need for repetition, the need to recall once again who I am, who we are, and what this life is all about.

I think that most of the monks take our community living for granted, which I suppose is normal. In that way, we are like many families. We busy ourselves with the day-to-day routines of life. Days become weeks, weeks become years, and for some of us, the years become decades. We get so absorbed by the demands of daily living that we do not see the beauty of an ordinary day. And everything of grace can only take place in the present, in the gift that is a singular day’s activities.

Sister Kathryn mentioned this morning that all of the colors, shades and hues of God exist in and through community life. It is here that we are learning much about ourselves and about God. The former is clear enough. We are quite visible to each other, with all our good points and not-so-good points. The latter—learning how God is here and discerning his presence—is not as easy. We need words of encouragement to allow our hearts to hope for what cannot be easily seen.

We need a kind but firm reminder that there is more to us than meets the eye, that with the eyes of the heart we may sense and trust what is hidden but very much alive in the lives of the monks of this monastery. And from that vision, to see the world differently, for every person is a walking, breathing, laughing and crying manifestation of the God who lives in us—and shines through us.

I looked about the room this morning, looked at the faces of the monks. How different we are from each other. It is not always an easy mix of personalities. But we need each other in this journey toward God, toward Eternal Life.

Somehow, I sense that it works, that something of God’s wisdom is shining through this place. Of course, I do not see it all the time. I need the light afforded by the words of others, and these days, we are being given a lot of loving pointers as to the way to God and each other. They are being spoken by a woman from Starlight, who still shines with the place of her birth.


Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, a community that marked the 70th anniversary of its founding on March 21, 2014. His books are available at the monastery web store at