On Saturday March 24th the Saint Sophia YAL took a day trip to Holy Protection Monastery in White Haven, PA. The trip was planned during lent to give us a time to escape the city and “reflect” on our faith, relationships and lives. The departure time for the 4 hour drive was 7:00am from Saint Sophia for a day long trip. We ended up with a total of 15 YAL-ers on the trip!!! This speaks volume of the commitment of our youth to not only to wake up early but accompany us on a Saturday. The trip was great and included a delicious Lenten lunch, tour of the grounds, sanctuaries and discussions with the monastics about life at the monastery. The monastery bookstore had amazing icons and other products made at the monastery.
Earlier in the week we had a Lenten discussion with Father Dimitri. One of the areas we discussed was how busy our days are and the common answer came up that if we had to sit in a room for just 5 minutes and do nothing we wouldn’t be able to do it. Well, that theory was tested at the monastery. After a discussion with a sister in one of the sanctuaries everyone stayed in church and just sat still for over 30 minutes praying and reflecting. Nobody wanted to move! After our discussion Thursday this was an amazing sight.
The trip was a very powerful experience and proved to be a great bonding time that brought all of closer to both fellow YAL-ers and our faith. Below are a few quotes from the trip:
~Chris Dallas, YAL President
“Upon approaching the grounds of Holy Protection monastery, one quickly realizes that you have entered a uniquely beautiful place, one that is not of this world. The landscape is simple but eloquent. Its stone churches and buildings are reminiscent of centuries old monasteries in Greece. The monastics of Holy Protection, roughly a dozen or so, practice constant prayer and service as they welcome pilgrims and prayerfully apply their talents to write icons, make prayer ropes, bake artisan breads and pastries and produce many other beautiful items that can be purchased in their gift shop in support of their mission. Services held at the monastery are otherworldly. Some of us had the blessing of attending Vespers and Small Compline in the main church, which is dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. From the ceiling of this church hangs a giant poleieleo, or chandelier, adorned with icons of the saints and ornate formations symbolic of church tradition. The church is also blessed to have within it a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary holding Christ brought one day by a visiting priest. As we learned while touring the church and grounds, the miraculous icon was very old and brought to the monastery so that it could be cleaned carefully and prayerfully by the nuns. During a service that evening it was discovered by the clergy serving that the icon had begun cleaning itself. Glory be to God! Since this miraculous occurrence, the icon has remained in the church as a reminder of the many miracles with which we are blessed.”
“It was a great experience to visit the Greek Monastery and contrast it with the Catholic Monasteries I have visited while on vacation in Spain. My favorite part was hearing about the lives of the sisters and learning about their daily schedule. It was very interesting to get a little insight into their lifestyle.”
“I was fascinated by the thought of going to a monastery because I had only heard of them in movies or read of them in books, in far off lands. Until I came to St. Sophia’s, I never even knew that they existed in the United States! It was wonderful to see the nuns first-hand and learn about their daily life. The sanctuaries were beautiful. We were blessed to have time to pray and meditate in one of them. This experience was unlike any field trip that I have ever taken. Having this glimpse into their world of faith was inspiring. Plus, the trip to and from the monastery allowed me to truly bond with fellow YAL-ers and have some thought-provoking discussions on the monastic life, theology, and our beliefs.
PS Any preconceived notion I had of food was shattered when they provided us with a delicious Lenten meal! The products and icons that they made and sold were also exquisite.”