By Kymberly Breckenridge (Recycled from December 2015, Edition 14)
Illustrated by Tatyana Starikova
With the holiday season in full swing, it is hard to imagine allowing our minds to retreat from the necessities of holiday preparation. But for many, the holidays and all they entail are not cause for celebration. Even I, the very definition of a Christmas elf, can sink into despair at the thought of loved ones no longer with me, feuds I cannot fix or the seemingly trite prospect of holiday cleanup. “Quiet” and “holidays” are not a likely pair, but perhaps some moments spent in reflection might put all the busywork in perspective.
The Graymoor Spiritual Life Center in Garrison, NY, sponsored by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, offers such respite from the storm. In their words, they seek “to do the extraordinary for the ordinary.” The Franciscan Friars, dedicated to the work of Saint Francis of Assisi, devote their lives to the pain and struggle of “ordinary” people.
In fact, Assisi’s peace prayer, starting with “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace,” is included in Step 11 of the AA program. Many wonderful weekend retreats and weekly meetings, as well as recovery prayer services held at Graymoor’s majestic stone chapels, can help those who seek relief from addiction.
In 1988, the Franciscan Friars established a support group for those struggling with HIV and AIDS. The first Saturday of every month, the Do Not Fear to Hope support group offers caring and emotional help to their members and creates a safe environment for sharing information based on participants’ experiences with the disease.
The Graymoor Spiritual Life Center has opportunities for everyone to recharge in quiet contemplation with gardens, chapels and a gorgeous labyrinth with a Peace Pole inscribed “May Peace Prevail on Earth.” Labyrinths are a wonderful sacred space for reflection, meditation and prayer, and Graymoor will not disappoint. Friar Thomas Orians, director, explains that “people come away refreshed” from the many retreats offered here.
Three times a year the center holds a recreation retreat in partnership with the Appalachian Mountain Club, allowing participants to fully engage with nature through hikes or cross-country skiing. In fact, the Appalachian Trail runs through the Graymoor property, and all are invited to enjoy many of the trails during their day or overnight visit to the center. Other popular retreats at Graymoor include journaling workshops, an autumn nature photography workshop and retreats for women. There are also spiritual events held at Christmas and New Year’s.
The Graymoor Spiritual Life Center is devoted to providing retreats that will nourish mind, body and soul regardless of religious affiliation, in sickness or in health. Whether you suffer from illness, addiction or feel spiritually adrift, a walk in a labyrinth and some meditation in a chapel will help restore you to your best self. During this holiday season, give yourself the best gift possible—peace of mind and an understanding of “where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy” (Saint Francis of Assisi).
For more information, visit their website at www.atonementfriars.org. █