Nov. 1-3 Retreat FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Saint Leo Abbey Annual Fall Retreat
“The Spiritual Life”

Enter into The Mystery of Peace

Friday, November 1, 2019, 6:00 P.M. until Sunday, November 3, 2019, 11:00 A.M.

Location: Saint Leo Abbey, Town of Saint Leo, Florida — 45 minutes north of Tampa (Directions at end of FAQs).

Listen to VENI CREATOR SPIRITUS while reading…….


Everyone is invited to this special retreat. This retreat is designed for Catholic and Non-Catholic men and women who seek God in a deeper prayer life, avoid the traps of a secular world, and enter into the mystery of peace.

It is your time with God.

The weekend consists of several conferences, individual prayer time along with prayer and meals Saturday and also breakfast on Sunday with the monks.

Other questions? If you have a question, please email the Oblate Office at or call John at 813-228-8015.

QUESTION: What is the program and schedule for the retreat?

Answer: Read or download the retreat program and schedule.

QUESTION: Is a deposit required? When is the deadline for payment?

Answer: No deposit is required. The total cost of the retreat is due Wednesday October 30, 2019.  Register and pay online.

QUESTION: When is check in?

Answer: Friday, November 1, 2019 at 6:00 pm in the second floor lobby. Check-in in pictures.

QUESTION:  This will be my first visit at an abbey.  I am a little afraid; actually I am really scared. Should I be afraid of not knowing what to do?

Answer: NO!! Benedictines have been welcoming pilgrims including spiritual pilgrims for nearly 1,500 years. Hospitality Я Us. Relax. We want you to be comfortable and at peace.  In fact, this retreat’s theme is Enter into the Mystery of Peace. We are here to help, not judge.

QUESTION: Are pictures permitted inside the abbey and church?

Answer: Yes.

QUESTION: What is the appropriate attire for the retreat?

Answer: Church casual. No shorts are permitted in the Church or the abbey’s dining room on the first floor.

QUESTION: I keep hearing the Lake Room is cold and that I should bring a sweater and a jacket. What happens if I decide not to bring a jacket and a sweater?

Answer: Most likely you will be cold. This is fair warning!

QUESTION: May I check in before 6:00 pm on Friday?

Answer: If the guest rooms are ready, yes.  But we won’t know until Friday afternoon. The abbey’s housekeeping staff works very hard.  It is possible they will have the whole fourth floor ready midafternoon. But it is best to plan on check in at 6:00 pm. If you arrive early you can still enjoy the abbey grounds or pray or do lectio divina in the abbey church.

Spend time sitting and watching the lake and listening. Explore the retreat library on the third floor until you check in. Have an early dinner across the street at the Abbey Tavern.

QUESTION: How is lectio divina pronounced?

Answer:  LEK-si-oh   dih-VEE-nuh

QUESTION: OK, I give up, what in the world is lectio divina?

Answer:  Lectio divina is slow, contemplative Bible reading that lets God speak to your heart and seeks close communion with God by God’s illumination of your soul. It is not reading for intellectual knowledge or analysis of the text or teaching. Some people like to do lectio divina on the text of the Bible without any verse numbering or footnotes or headings or cross references — just the plain text.

There are several ways to describe the core concept of lectio divina (divine reading). For me it is a way of listening to God and consists of (a) slow reading of the Bible until (b) God’s illumination and (c) then stopping to contemplate and rest in that illumination. The last part of the process consists of the time in silence immediately after reading and in keeping the illumination in mind sometimes for an extended period of time, days or weeks.  It involves the reordering of the mind and heart.

I like thinking of lectio divina as a unified process dependent on the Holy Spirit rather than a step-by-step process dependent on the reader’s action. But that’s just me. Thankfully everyone is different. You must find your way. Many people like the four-step method of:

lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), oratio (prayer), contemplatio (contemplation)

QUESTION: Do we stay in a dormitory?

Answer: No. You will have a separate room with your own key.  There are two single beds in each room.  Husband and wife may share a room or have separate rooms. The cost is the same.

QUESTION: Do the rooms have bathrooms?

Answer: No, there is a large bathroom and showers for women and another for men. There are two showers in each.

There is also a lockable unisex bathroom with a shower located in the middle of the floor.

And there is also a women’s restroom without showers located in the middle of the fourth-floor hallway.

A floor plan of the 4th floor of the abbey (where we will be staying) will be available at the check-in table in the second-floor Saint Leo Hall lobby.

QUESTION: Is there a ramp into the abbey and elevator to the fourth floor?

Answer: Yes. Several years ago an elderly monk used a scooter and he could zip around all over the abbey without any problems.

QUESTION: Are sheets and towels provided?

Answer: Yes

QUESTION: What about meals?

Answer: Please eat before arriving on Friday. We eat three meals with the monks on Saturday. On Sunday we have breakfast with the monks.

QUESTION: Is there a kitchen and eating area on the fourth floor?

Answer: Yes, there is a refrigerator (please label your items), a microwave, sink, and two coffee makers, napkins, cups, and a small table. The coffee drinkers tend to congregate here in the morning! Some people like to bring their own coffee makers.

QUESTION: Is it OK to bring a cooler with some food, snacks, drinks, or bottled water?

Answer: Yes, and wine and cheese is OK too. Whenever I am away overnight anyplace I always bring my own bottled water, but you may or may not depending on your preferences.

QUESTION: Should I bring an alarm clock?

Answer: Yes. The time changes Saturday night, we set our clock back one hour.

QUESTION: Is there any additional cost in addition to the registration fee I already paid?

Answer: No, you will not need any money except if you want to buy something at the abbey gift shop.

QUESTION: Is the abbey dining room on the first floor open all the time?

Answer: No, the abbey’s dining room is open only during the abbey’s meal times.

QUESTION: How should we prepare for the retreat?

Answer: John Cassian wrote that the condition of our heart and mind before we begin prayer greatly influences how we pray. The same might be said for a spiritual retreat.

Everyone has their own way to prepare, but you might do extra times of lectio divina, more time in stillness, or praying parts of the divine office that you do not normally pray during the day.

While on the retreat we will be following the abbey’s prayer and eating schedule, you might try to move toward that pattern in the time leading up to the retreat.

But the main idea is that your retreat time can begin now in your own home and at work.

Here are some ideas:

• Pray the 150 psalms in the week before the retreat

• Learn about a saint whose feast day is during the retreat or in the time leading to the retreat.

For example, for 2017 Pope Saint Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church, feast day on Friday November 10, 2017, this is a solemnity at the abbey because the abbey is named after this great saint. Only two people have been saints, popes, designated great, and doctors of the Church. One is this Saint Leo for whom the abbey is named. The other is Pope Saint Gregory the Great, also remembered by all Benedictine monks for his Gregorian chants.

• Begin keeping a journal now

• Pray Vigils at night like the ancient monks

• Fast (Fasting is not when you abstain from all food. Fasting is often one regular meal and also two smaller meals that together do not equal a regular meal. The main idea is to bend and discipline your appetite as a promise to God.)

• Select a book to read before and during the retreat

• Select a theme to direct your thought, prayer, or reading before the retreat. A theme might be “prayer,” or “forgiveness,” “silence,” or “God’s love.”

• Select a Lenten-type theme — the life of monastics should always have the character of a Lenten observance. The abbey is not a hotel and its simple surroundings can help you leave all worldly distractions

• Spend more time in stillness

• Spend time at the abbey

• Get plenty of rest before the retreat

• Seek out times of stillness; think about the psalms and why they have been a favorite of monastics


QUESTION: Is there any free time?

Answer: Yes. Check the program/schedule.

QUESTION: May I swim in the Saint Leo University pool while on retreat?

Answer: Yes, if the pool is open. Please identify yourself to any university staff at the pool.

QUESTION: What materials or books should I bring?

Answer: Bring a Bible. Bring the Rule of Saint Benedict. Most people like to take notes and even keep a journal while on retreat. If you take notes you should also bring a pen or a pencil. The abbey’s retreat library is filled with spiritual books and has comfy chairs for ready, or read on the third-floor porch overlooking Lake Jovita. You might bring something special to be blessed by one of our priests.

QUESTION: Are there times when it is customary to be silent?

Answer: Yes, everyone should to be silent walking from the church down to the dining room for all meals.

At meal times, please talk only after you take your food to your table.

The time before prayers in the church with the monks are also times of silence.

QUESTION: How do we pray with the monks?

Answer: Here is an explanation. The abbey may supply prayer booklets for the weekend.

QUESTION: I have seen all the Saint Leo Abbey monks with tablets during prayer, why?

Answer: The monks chant the liturgy of the hours (divine office) using a free app, iBreviary. We do this so everyone can join us in prayer no matter where they are and because the app is much easier to use than the books. You are encouraged to download the app to your tablet or phone and use it during the prayers. You can begin practicing using the app at home before the retreat. If you do not want to use the app when at the abbey, there are a few books available for use.  A monk will show you how to use the books and the app if you have questions. iBreviary is in the Apple App Store and in the Google Play Store.

QUESTION: Will there be any other people with us on the fourth floor?

Answer: Typically not. However, sometimes if the guest house is full there may be other guests at the far end of the hall.  That is rare and we seldom hear or see them.

QUESTION: If I lock myself out of my room, who do I call?

Answer: Call 813-228-8015 for all emergencies. The phone number will be on the floor plan you receive at check in.

QUESTION: What if I lock my key and my phone in my room?

Answer: It is a good idea to always carry your phone and your key! But if you are stranded, call Brother Giovanni/John Bakas at 813-228-8015.  What happens if I stopped reading these FAQs prior to this question and lock my phone and my room key in my room in the middle of the night when everyone is sleeping?  You will need to knock on the door of a neighbor, hope they are a light sleeper, and ask them to call Brother Giovanni/John Bakas at 813-228-8015.

If you are the one who gets the knock on your door in the middle of the night, you might want to add Brother Giovanni/John Bakas at 813-228-8015 to your contracts before you arrive at the abbey so you can dial the number quickly, not have to look for the number in your retreat envelope, and return to sleep.

QUESTION: Is the abbey locked at night?

Answer: One door is left open for people who are out late.

QUESTION: Will we walk in a group or procession outside the abbey while we are on retreat?

Answer: No, all retreat activities are inside the abbey or the church which are built together. You will not need to go outside for anything all weekend. But there will be time for walking on your own if you want.

QUESTION: I asked for a single room, will I have to share one with someone else?

Answer: No. Everyone gets a private room, even without asking.  On the registration form you will tell us how many rooms (ie if husband and wife want 1 or 2 rooms).

QUESTION: This web site has many blank pages, why?

Answer: This new site has the online registration and payment page which was created recently.  The old site can still be seen here. It’s content is being moved to the new site.

QUESTION: How do I get to Saint Leo Abbey?


33601 State Road 52, St. Leo, FL 33574-9700.

Park anywhere in large lot with US Post Office trailer on west side (Google maps shows post office incorrectly) You may unload your car by church: Abbey Ct. and Grove Street. Abbey has a large luggage cart.

From Tampa or Gainesville. Exit 285 on I-75. Go east on State Road 52, about 12 minutes. St. Leo Abbey is on the left. Drive past abbey to the main entrance of St. Leo University on the left. Turn left into St. Leo University, go around circle and follow the sign to abbey. Park in lot by abbey — Lot with US Post Office on west side.

From Lakeland. I-4 WEST to Exit 36 in Lakeland. Travel NORTH on Highway 98 until it merges with Highway 301. Turn right on 301. At first traffic light, Clinton Ave., turn left. Proceed until Clinton ends at Prospect St., turn right. Proceed to traffic light, turn left onto Hwy 52. St. Leo University is half mile on right. Turn right into St. Leo University, go around circle and follow the sign to abbey. Park in lot by abbey — the lot with the US Post Office on west side.

QUESTION: My question was not answered, who should I call or email?

Answer: Send an email to or call Brother Giovanni/John Bakas 813-228-8015.