John Dear is a Jesuit priest, peace activist, and executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the largest, oldest interfaith peace organization in the United States. Here is an account of a nine-day retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Dear was experiencing burnout after serving as executive director of the Sacred Heart Center for low-income families in the impoverished section of Richmond, Virginia.
The author begins each day with Vigils at 3:15 A.M. and ends the day with Compline at 7:30 P.M. Sitting, praying, reading, and writing in Thomas Merton's hermitage, Dear feels he is on holy ground. He recalls the same feelings of awe he experienced at Assisi, at the Sea of Galilee, and in Rome when he talked with Mother Teresa. Dear realizes that solitude can replenish the soul and lead to inner freedom. In an updating of the Prayer of St. Francis, he expresses his yearning for a new era of disarmament, nonviolence, and peace.