The Micklepage Silent Retreat had its own blessed rhythm which I just Loved. When I was younger I hated time-table ~ Having to be and do someone else’s timing, as opposed to my own natural timing ~ however I Loved the rhythm of these days. When I think back to my own recent past happiness’ ~ I think of my days beginning with Mass ~ walking 6 miles ~ the little natural rhythm of set meal times, and of the routine complementing my free time for writing, contemplation, work, play, and then closing with beautiful prayer. Those days were happy days ~ such a blessing.
Micklepage’s rhythm went like this;
Rising + Adoration @ 7.30
Morning Prayer @ 8.00
Breakfast @ 8.30
Hour Conference @ 9.15
Mass @ 11.45
Lunch @ 1.00
Requested Interview with Priest @ 2.30
Hour Conference @ 3.15
Rosary @ 4.30
Adoration then Tea @ 5.00
Hour Conference @ 6.30
Supper @ 7.45
Evening Prayer @ 8.45
Oh how I could incorporate this whole routine into my daily living. And then on weeks abandon it all together. 0-:O)
In addition to Evening Prayer, each evening a different beautiful time unfolded with; Evening Prayer ~ A Prayer & Praise Evening ~ Evening Prayer and All Night Adoration ~ An Evening with Mathe Robin & Personal Testimonies from the Foyer de Charité Team ~ And An Evening Prayer Vigil ~ With Baptism Vows Renewal & Consecration to Mary.
The very first evening meal on the Monday Eve, and the very last meal on the Sunday Lunchtime we were welcome to talk to one another. At all other times we were to remain strictly silent.
It was beautiful.
I have often thought I could live this way without ever speaking again ~ just like animals do. I especially admire dogs who communicate with their eyes and gentle humble presence ~ enjoying no less the fullness of joy ~ fun ~ peace ~ love ~ affection ~ sorrow ~ etc without words ~ and yet still fully communicate ~ unlike our elusive else coquettish feline friends whose silence is blessed with a stillness sublime, but a communication akin to that of selfishness as opposed to that of interdependence and community.
However when we shared in conversation before departing ~ an extraordinaryness revealed in itself, our language as a beautiful form of communication, a Truth that was impossible to be fully understood, in the silence by others, previous to our conversations, because of their own misperceptions, presumptions, discriminations and prejudices silently held, or even acquired throughout the weeks silence. This was revealed at the final meal when I quietly told this attractive tall young man that I was the mother of 5 children. I shared my sad ‘cohabitatio situation’ with him to explain any of the weeks sorrow that he may have noticed in me, and of how I came to become a Catholic ~ I am happy to admit that it hurt a raw wound, when he admitted that he had thought of me completely differently because he never knew I was a mother.
At one precious point during the week I couldn’t fathom his acting skills when he was miming at the dinner table for me to pass the butter, and in all our utter delight and amusement at the game of failed charades, my laughter just erupted beyond that of the others and beyond the suppression of all silence, and all I could do was to fling my head Heavenwards and laugh and laugh away, until a rather more demure composed self-controlled posture returned to me, everyone smiling water melon smiles. The moment was pure joy unrestrained. Thank God for Joy.
It turned out he was discerning the possibility of teaching Theology at the all boys public boarding school in Bath where he worked, rather than English Literature which he currently taught. He told me of how he was also discerning whether that subject change might lead him deeper still to the priesthood. He almost apologised as he admitted he had me all wrong ~ he said he was the 4th child in a family of 5 children and very close to his mother, the eldest child was the only girl whom he said was very much ‘the eldest and very much in charge’ and all the other children were boys. He presumed I was single with no dependants. He and another female retreatant both had a sublime millpond stillness and presence about them, at one point I thought they may even have been married. They never even knew each other, but just connected. He offered me some great advice that I hadn’t considered myself, for discernment, should the reception job be offered me. Upon departure I put my hands together in prayer, to gesture that I would pray for him and his own discernment. I am so glad we had the chance to share and converse.
This conversation reminded me of a conference workshop on Women in the Church that Gemma Simmonds gave at Heythrop, where she talked about going in to seminaries and getting the young men who were training to be priests to look at the females that have had some impact or influence in their lives ~ and of observing how they use this ‘blueprint of woman’ or strangely enough at times ‘the complete opposite blueprint’ when dealing with other women. It was most interesting and reassuring that these observations and impressions were being made visible to seminarians during their training.
Despite the often beauty of honest dialogue and despite its sometimes hinderance . . . . . Still there is a beautiful Truth that SILENCE reveals in fulness to oneself ~ and it is all-powerful. This silence insists upon an interior dignity ~ where the mildest, gentlest, hidden secret tears of the soul eventually seep out of ones being, visible only to those silently observing ~ that at some point only the spoken word could define ~ articulate ~ expose ~ and release with all the force of unfettered deepest emotion. Only possible because of the silence ~ drawing as if by perspiration, the essence of ones deepest being, through the pores of the naked self silently exposed.
Purified by God.
Despite the purging I Loved the rhythm of these days. I chose carefully my adoration times. I awoke at dawn ~ showered early before others had stirred ~ and often went to the chapel for absolute solace in prayer just Him and me, even before the priest had come at 7.oo, for Blessed Adoration. The wake up bell then rang out at 7.30. One day I thought I would exercises my poorly ankle by taking a gentle early morning run to the village and returned direct spent and breathless to the chapel, where I found 2 already in prayer. The transition from breathless to breathing calmly again was far less silent than I had anticipated. Later this same day I tripped on the cobbled pathway and re-sprained my poorly ankle, so I had no option but to rest it for most of the week. I though that maybe this was Gods way of making my whole being idle-on-slow without speeding up, whenever I felt the urge to exert myself.
The rhythm of the week had a binary rhythm taking us on a journey ~ a pilgrimage through the Joys and Grace of the Sacraments of the Church. Of desolation and spiritual battles, from the creation story ~ to the fall ~ to sin ~ to evil ~ both ordinary and extraordinary ~ to death ~ to humility ~ forgiveness ~ to reconciliation ~ to Eucharist ~ to consolation ~ to prayer ~ to mission ~ to Mary ~ to risen life in the Spirit.
Being extra supernaturally perceptive I know this retreat was spiritually prescribed personally for my needs. It had its purpose from the outset ~ from the moment it was advertised. And with all my insight and gratitude to you all, I was happy to embrace it fully ~ in the hope that it would restore something of the brokenness that I have come face to face with in the Catholic Church.