I never did quite get around to talking to myself about why it is important to go on retreat – as I did in January. I don’t find it easy. You can’t just ‘flick a switch’ and imagine that you can sort of do the monk thing. Life isn’t like that. But I think I am getting a bit better at understanding what I am hunting around for – or what is hunting around for me.
I like being with the Benedictines in Rostrevor. I mean that I like that in the same way as I hope people will like being in our congregations. The monks are a family – obviously so. They have warmth and manifest humanity and, even if that was all there was, it would be immensely refreshing. I don’t know whether I mentioned that the Iron Lady told me a bit about why I go on retreat. She was strong – had immense self-belief – passionate about what needed to be done. And at some point, she passed over the line from being a strong and determined leader to being simply impossible – as her rant at the cabinet table demonstrated. It’s the spiritual danger of leadership – where inner conviction passes across into non-negotiable rigidity. Retreat gives you an innoculation against that and it doesn’t wear off for a while.
When you’ve had the innoculation, you tend to pick up things which reinforce it. Reading the Imitation of Christ – on my Kindle on the bus since you ask – I tripped over, ‘He who knoweth how to walk from within …. ‘ And I particularly liked a line from Psalm 18 which I never remember noticing before: ‘You lengthen my stride beneath me ..’ I wonder what that might be about?
I heard the morning service on Radio Ulster from Rostrevor last year and was greatly taken with the tone of it all, there was just something calming about them. Am considering booking myself in for 24 hours just to see if I can exist without continuous Radio 4 that long.
I think you would enjoy it – and for fairly incessant talkers like ourselves the silence is balm
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