I like Neil’s posts, especially on liturgy. Clearly, I should escape to the “real” world more often.
Except for a few diocesan meetings, I had a sixty-some-bed retreat house all to myself this week. Even the director was away, off on her own retreat. I had a strong sense I had left behind an “unreal” world to enter something very real. It was one of the most solitary experiences I can recall: a skeleton staff that kept to their tasks. Even when they were on site, I had a whole wing to myself.
Most monastery or retreat house bookshelves have a great sampling of spiritual directors. I enjoyed some hours with the Australian Cistercian Michael Casey. I don’t usually recommend going on retreat without a director, and I rarely do it. But on short notice, everything seemed to piece into place. I did have Saint Paul also, and more on him a bit later.
Last October, I left off final prayers on my last retreat in an upstairs room. My last evening, it was about an hour before sunset, and they dying autumn sunlight shone in the windows. Gradually the rectangles of sun climbed the yellow walls, then it flickered as the nearest star dipped behind the far trees and then out!–under the horizon.
Most of this week’s west windows were protected by an overhanging roof. But as I passed by one of the suites near the office, there was a little peek of 6PM sunshine. And like last Fall, I prayed some lectio as the sun poured in the window
Now, about Saint Paul …
I was about two-thirds of the way through second Corinthians and really struggling. Two decades ago, I liked that letter because of Paul’s honesty. I found it more cloying and distracting the past few weeks, and really toyed with finding another letter. Or maybe another Testament.
Fr Casey suggested there may be a reason for continuing through a whole biblical book, echoing what my confessor suggested a few years ago. I still found Paul’s complaining and boasting annoying, but the following passage struck me as much as anything else this past week:
I was lowered in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.
More often we are imprisoned in the city or the building and we don’t want to get out. It takes more of God taking the initiative to come through our small window and letting himself in to the prison we have achieved. Maybe that’s one reason I feel going off to retreat is more of an experience of breaking through to a real world. In a way, I sense I’ve left behind the prisons and illusions of a well-constructed life. I don’t comprehend everything I read or pray biblically. But the glimpse becomes more clear in a solitary sunlight word.