Wild Wandering: St. Scholastica

Only one hour away from North Andover, but worlds different from my daily rounds, is the St. Scholastica Priory. I first learned of the sanctuary when I needed a mama break, an overnight away from home to rest and regroup when Niko was an infant and while we actually lived in Central Mass. Located in Petersham, nestled amongst 200 acres of woodlands and surrounded by 10,000 acres of conservation land, the space offers a unique experience for retreatants.


I stayed at the guesthouse for several days, with only one other occupant so quiet and peace were ample and welcome. The sisters and brothers participate in the seven hours of Divine Office (below, the weekday schedule) :

  • 5:55 AM Vigils (Monks: 5:00 AM)
  • 6:30 AM Lauds
  • 9:30 AM Mass and Terce
  • 1:00 PM Sext
  • 3:00 PM None
  • 6:00 PM Vespers
  • 8:00 PM Compline

and as a guest one is welcome to attend all, sung in mostly Latin Gregorian chant. One is also invited to eat lunch in silence with the sisters (or brothers if male) in their dining hall, with the exception of their Olde English Sheepdog pup who is not silent at all, but adorable nonetheless!

Heading in
Main worship center

I spent my days reflecting, meditating on the coming days of 2020 and doing some deep healing and processing. The first days were nourishing, bathed in the sounds of chanting and the devotional energy shed layers of stress and concern that have blanketed me for months. The rhythms of regular prayer were a salve and comforting. Having the sole purpose of devoting time without other agenda in this way allowed for a shaking loose of constraints and reconnection with essentials; breath, body, heart. The absence of duty, familiar surroundings and routine opened space to be with life and its spirit in undistracted ways.

Guest house with 18 rooms : separate wings for men and women
Guest house entrance
Entrance main worship center
Font door detail
Divine Mother and Child
Inner Sanctum
Inner Sanctum altar

Purposely setting aside distraction invites the arrival of that which needs attention, and so I spent a fair amount of my retreat sitting with and wrangling with shadowy messengers. And it was as it should be.

Room with a view
Guest house Nativity
Guest house dining hall
Guest house sitting room
Sisters’ quarters built 1929. Where female guests may take lunch with sisters.
Chapel within sisters’ quarters. Here, assembling for daily 3 pm Hour of Prayer called None.
Cozy study within the cloister. One of the novice sisters made the paper fire cut out with faerie lights.
Star to guide one on.

To book lodgings contact the guest mistress. While there is not set fee for visiting, donations are welcome.

to learn more about the sanctuary: St. Scholastica Priory

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