The Tomie DePaola mural in the Chapel at the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center.
As you enter the driveway the sign has a subtitle that reads, “Solitude on a busy highway.” I enter and pull into a space near the front door. Entering with a number of other people, we are greeted warmly. After signing in, we open the door to our right and enter the sacred space.
The chapel is simple, yet it possesses a great call to quiet, deep places. Quietly slipping into our seats, we are waiting for the evening of prayer to begin. Sister Sue Zemgulis, OP lit the candles, and it was time. I sat quietly, falling into a place of prayer, helped by seeing the figures from the Tomie DePaola mural, all the Holy Women bearing witness. (Read about it here.)
One Thursday a month, the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Niskayuna offers Sung Vespers in the spirit of Taize. Despite having lived here for nearly 5 years, and having attended many events at the Retreat Center, I had never been to this Taize prayer service. That was to change this evening, accompanied by my great friend Sue Karpovich, ready for something that would touch my soul. I was not disappointed.
As we sat in the Chapel, Sister Sue began the prayer with some simple instructions. There were a number of people present, including some familiar faces. (I was delighted to see my friend, classmate and story-teller extraordinaire, Marni Gillard!) Sister Sue offered a beautiful reading from Brother Roger, he of blessed memory, founder of Taize. Then the prayers began, all in song and chant. It was an hour of heavenly peace. We all came together in this space, to sing and pray as one.
Sometimes in the midst of all the craziness, all it takes is an hour in a place close to home. We all think that we have to deserve some peace and freedom, or that we have to work for it, travel afar for it, or only find it in the most obscure and exotic places. Tonight I was on that busy highway in Niskayuna, I saw the sign, and I drove in feeling one way. An hour later, I departed, having found that solitude on a busy highway after all. What a gift!
(For a complete listing of programs and retreats, see the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center website. You can also “like” the Center on Facebook. It is a most remarkable place!)