Finding Peace at Holy Protection Monastery
On Friday July 23, 2010 Father Peter Paproski of St. John the Baptist Church in Stratford, CT, Father Luke Mihaly of Holy Trinity Church in Danbury, CT and four parishioners of the New England Deanery set off to visit the Holy Protection Monastery in White Haven, PA.
We went straight to the main church of Sts. Peter and Paul for Vespers and Small Compline, which is served daily at 4 p.m. Afterwards we were shown to our very comfortable guest rooms and served a delicious dinner. The evening left us time to wander amid the terra cotta roofed buildings and colorful flowers. The beautiful grounds felt miles away from the nearby highway and we were able to take in the many serene spots to meditate, read or just sit and enjoy the silence.
Divine Liturgy was served at 7:30, with the talanton calling all to come. The services are all in Greek and the beautiful chanting and quiet holiness of the service enabled all to participate, regardless of language. Afterwards, Sister Marina, one of 17 sisters who live at the convent, gave us a tour.
On the site of the monastery there once stood a hospital and a sanatorium for sufferers of Tuberculosis. One original building from sanatorium remains. It has been turned into a chapel for St. Paraskeva whose feast the sisters were getting ready to celebrate on July 26th. Sister Marina noted that sisters thought it fitting that this place where people once came to heal their bodies now was a place for healing souls. Another chapel on the grounds is dedicated to St.Nectarios and a third, near a small cemetery, honors St. Serafim of Sarov. It is fittingly made of logs and sits on the edge of the woods, reminiscent of St. Seraphim’s sojourns into the forest where he spent long periods in prayer.
Also at the monastery are a bakery and workshops where, the sisters make bread, cakes and pastries, jams, soaps, candles and lotions. Holy paint icons are also painted there. A sampling of all they do is available in their bookstore.
The sister humbly told us a little about the lives of the sisters who live at the convent. Their day begins at midnight when they are awakened to do their individual rules of prayer in their cells until 3 a.m. Then, depending on the day of the week, they then go to the chapel for either Divine Liturgy or an Akathist service. After a brief rest, they get up and start their jobs for the day. Each sister is given an “obedience” or task, in Sister Marina’s case it is hospitality. The sisters can be seen with prayer ropes in their hands as they go about their tasks, a constant call to prayer.
After some more free time to browse in the bookstore or enjoy the grounds, we had lunch and headed home. Each left enriched and refreshed in some way by the quietude and holiness of this place where, as Father Peter pointed out, it is almost assured that the Jesus Prayer is being said somewhere at every moment.
- Susan Sulich