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?