It's been a wonderful retreat. I think the kids are getting a lot out of it. In the beginning I think it was a big adjustment, perhaps. One of the monks used to word "spooked" to describe them! But after 24 hours they all seem to fit right in. Kids are great at adapting like that. Interestingly, our severely autistic boy is thriving here. we suspect it's the structure he likes. When the bell rings he trots down to the chapel with a delighted expression. I think he must find the repetitive chanting of the psalms soothing, as well.
I've been making the kids go to all the Daily Offices. That means that they are in the chapel praying with the monks five times a day! But as I said, they seem to be enjoying it for the most part. Yesterday (Friday) we had two sessions on prayer. My hope is that exposure to different styles of prayer will help the kids learn what works for them.
Today we had a talk about "human relations"--which is a polite way to say "sex." Kerrie and felt strongly that we needed to do a unit on human sexuality. Our experience is that what the kids get at school is mostly biology and disease prevention, and that if the church has anything to say about human sexuality confirmation class is the time to say it! We divided the kids by gender for "the talk." the guys and I ended up talking quite a bit about dating. How do you meet girls? How do develop relationships with them? It was important to me that they see how foundational principles of Christian ethics--such as the respect for every living being--translates into choices in their personal lives.
On a practical note, I thought it was important to tell the boys about how common it is for girls and women they may date to have had traumatic experiences in the past. Certainly I dated girls who had been through painful experiences and had a need for healing around those issues. The important thing for a guy in that situation, I told them, is to be patient and gentle. Very, very patient, and very, very gentle!
Was it an awkward talk? Maybe a little, I won't lie. But I'm glad I did it, especially in light of the sexual abuse workshop I attended earlier in the week in which Father Ray pointed out the need for the church to teach kids about the sacredness and ethical implications of sex. The Diocesan coordinator for safe-church practices affirmed that the policy of the diocese is that such conversations are appropriate as part of religious education in parishes, so long as we have parental consent (which we did).
Anyway... I'm glad we did it! The next time we'll have a talk like that will probably be pre-marital counseling! God help them in the mean time!
This afternoon Bede is coming to talk to the kids. We suspect that after two full days the kids will have a lot of questions about what they've observed at the monastery. It's been neat to see how they've clicked into the routines of life here!