Priests are expected to go on retreat at least once a year. This is a canonical requirement that all priests must fulfill. I guess the aim of it is to make sure that priests maintain their closeness with God and their own spiritual health even as they care for others. A number of years ago I was on my annual retreat with Trappist Monks in Spencer Abbey near Boston. I love Trappist Monks, these mysterious men who spend all of their time praying and working in silence. They rarely eat meat (growing their own food is less expensive), they pray many hours each day, and they see great value in physical labour. Their life is very simple, and yet their view and understanding of life is very refreshing. During this retreat I tried to declutter my life from the business of even my thoughts and desires. It’s easy to stay busy even on a retreat, and I did not want to do that. Maybe this is why I resisted the temptation of bringing books to read. Instead, I just brought the Bible and the Breviary (prayers for priests). In order to occupy my time between the official prayer time with the monks, I decided to pray my breviary very slowly and thoughtfully. I would read each line of the psalms and spend a few moments thinking about what I just read. What followed was an experience of God’s presence that was more powerful than ever before. I began feeling God’s presence and noticing that God was speaking to me through the words I was reading in my prayer book. The lesson I learned from the Monks of Spencer Abbey was a simple one: it is better to do a few things well than many things poorly. Not bad for men who live in seclusion from what we would call “the real world”. Or maybe they are the ones living in the real world and not the rest of us.