Island Retreat: Contemplative Poetry

Fallow time Tom RyanGuest blog by Tom Ryan. Fr. Thomas Ryan, CSP, directs the Paulist North American Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations located in the Hecker Center in Washington, DC. He leads ecumenical retreats and workshops in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. An active contemplative and lover of the outdoors, Tom has authored 14 books on a variety of themes in the spiritual life as well as the DVD Yoga Prayer. He is also a member of Shalem’s 40th Anniversary Honorary Council for the 40-Hour Contemplative Prayer Vigil.

At the end of every summer, I make an eight-day retreat to my sweet spot on the planet, an island in the middle of Lake George in upstate NY owned by my community, the Paulists, since the early 1860s. There’s a cabin among the trees , and the island is embraced on both sides of the lake by the forested mountains of Adirondack State Park.  When the Jesuit missionary explorer Isaac Jogues first descended the lake in a canoe with native Americans, he was so taken by the transcendent beauty of the 32-mile long lake and mountains that he named it Le Lac du Saint Sacrament  (French for: Lake of the Blessed Sacrament). Here is a poem I wrote on my retreat on the island at the end of August.


Sitting at the end of the dock

my first night on the island,

full moon shining like

an elevated host held by

 the fingertips of the mountain

with its burley shoulders wrapped

in a dark forest-green cape.

Crickets chant in soft, adoring chorus

and beavers swim by my feet

slapping their tails in acclamation

as tufts of cloud-like incense float by

before the monstrance of the moonlight

with tree tops bowing their heads

in the Spirit-breath

of the late night breeze

while the stars above

glow like benediction candles

over le Lac du Saint Sacrament.

8-20-13, Thomas Ryan, CSP


December 12, 2013 by Shalem Institute
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