Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Retreat—At Last!

I’ve been away on retreat. Just after New Years I went with some of my brothers to Santa Barbara where we stayed at St. Mary’s Retreat House run by the Sisters of the Holy Nativity. The monks of the Order of the Holy Cross have taken refuge there since the burning of their retreat house and monastery last month; we were supposed to be staying with them, so they played “host” during our stay. Sad to say, it had been a very long time since I’d gone on retreat. Being neither holiday nor “work” per se, this was a welcome experience.

During the past year, I’ve given plenty of retreats, and hung around friaries without too much to do, but that is not what being on a retreat is really about. For me, it is partly planning to go on retreat and claiming the time as retreat time: this way I can leave behind the computer, and pull away from any sense of obligation to be available. Sometimes I joined the corporate worship with the brothers, other times I said the offices privately. The other thing about being on retreat is that my focus is God, deepening my relationship with the Trinity. I did not allow myself to think too much about travel plans or upcoming programs, nor did I go window shopping or watch television or any other kind of distraction—and Santa Barbara is full of distractions, let me tell you! Rather I read, wrote (long hand, no less) and rested. Being a bit of a book worm I refused to read novels until after 9:00 p.m.—it is too easy to lose myself in another world and then wonder where all the time went. I chose one of the OHC brothers as a kind of guide or mentor, and we had a really good talk.

It was a week of very gentle disciplines. The upshot of the week is that I feel loved and cared for—by the monks and by God. I feel grateful for my life and ministry. I learned that perhaps I have a tendency to squander opportunities for creativity. During my travels I stare off into space or read fiction; these are not bad things, but time passes without a trace. More and more I am going to use these times for writing.

Famous last words! But who knows?

It was a terrific week. I highly recommend a retreat for anybody.

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