New Gracanica Monastery Retreat Weekend
The weekend of August 10-13, 2012 the St. Paisius Missionary School partnered with New Gracanica Serbian Monastery in Third Lake, IL to sponsor our 4th Annual Spiritual Retreat Weekend. With the blessing of His Grace Bishop Longin, Hierarch of the Diocese of New Gracanica and Midwestern America, and efforts of the V. Rev. Fr. Milorad Loncar and the Women’s Auxiliary of the monastery, the weekend again provided a time of inner reflection and spiritual nourishment. The theme of the Conference was “This is truly Thy most Pure Body…Thine own Precious Blood.” The lectures explored the meaning of Holy Communion in our lives and in the Church. We had four main speakers who gave inspiring talks on different aspects of Holy Communion, such as the history of the Divine Liturgy, preparing for Holy Communion, the experience of the saints with the Eucharist, and Marriage and Holy Communion. Besides Fr. Michael, the other three speakers were: the V. Rev. Fr. James Dank from St. John of Kronstadt Orthodox Church in Lincoln, NE, the Rev. Fr. Jerome Sanderson from Christ the Savior Orthodox Mission, FR. JEROME & FR. JAMES Nashville, IN, and Rev. Deacon Marko Bojovic from St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church in Indianapolis, IN. Also on the last evening of the retreat, Fr. Milorad gave a wonderful slideshow on his trip to Russia and some of the monasteries there. Both Saturday and Sunday we celebrated Divine Liturgy in the beautiful Monastery Church dedicated to the Protection of the Mother of God. This year we again venerated the icon of the Mother of God of Three Hands, a copy of the original icon at Hilandar Monastery on Mt. Athos, and sang her Akathist. After the Akathist we all venerated a piece of the Life-giving Cross that resides on the Holy Table in the altar of the Monastery Church.
A joyful surprise for all of us at the retreat was the unexpected visit of His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia to New Gracanica Monastery. We were so honored to receive His Holiness’ blessing, who graciously shared meals with us, prayed with us, and served the Divine Liturgy on Sunday at the Monastery with His Grace Bishop Longin and all the clergy. It was such a peaceful and uplifting Liturgy that no one could imagine a more fitting end to our retreat on the theme of Divine Liturgy. Truly a blessing! HIS HOLINESS AND HIS GRACE BISHOP LONGIN AT DINNER
Sunday after brunch, the tables were pushed back in the dining room for some spontaneous dancing and singing. Instruments came out and the line formed for the Virginia Reel. The joy of the weekend captured everyone, even the ladies cooking in the kitchen. We were very thankful to the Sisterhood of the Monastery for providing such delicious meals and taking such great care of us. May our Lord bless all them abundantly for their gracious hospitality! Monday morning after breakfast, all, along with their vehicles, were blessed with holy water for their journey home. Many of them had a long journey ahead of them (14 of our attendees were from Lincoln, NE). We were, however, all spiritually full and thankful to our Lord for His mercy. Next year’s retreat was already in our thoughts and discussions. We would like to thank His Grace, Bishop Longin, for his blessing in permitting us to have our retreat at New Gracanica and the entire staff who went the extra mile for our conference.