Many people are often surprised to find out that we sisters take a consecutive eight full days out of the year for our annual community retreat.
"Isn't every day of your life a retreat?"
"What makes those days different from the rest of the year?"
"If you're in silence... what do you do for all those days?"
We'll try to answer these questions in this post -- plus, put a few photos up from our retreat!
As you may remember from one of our previous posts, we were blessed to have Fr. Richard Ounsworth, OP with us from Blackfriars, Oxford. As part of our retreat, not only are we (mostly) in silence, but we invite a Dominican friar to preach a retreat for us -- that means once a day we gather together for about 45 minutes and listen to the fruits of the friar's contemplation which he is handing on to us.
Fr. Richard spoke on the theme of "Finding Jesus in the Old Testament" -- and encouraged audience participation (i.e. questions and comments during and after the input) during our sessions. And not only did he feed our minds and souls with Christ and Sacred Scripture in our sessions at during his homilies, but he also treated us to a most scrumptious meal prepared by himself (and a sister assistant) on Sr. Julie's birthday. Needless to say, Sister Assistant was thrilled to learn some new recipes for the sisters' -- some have already been repeated to much delight!
So, what about the rest of the time during retreat? What do we do?
Well, several sisters take advantage of our glorious location here in the New Forest and spend time alone going on walks through the forest. Others take time to sit in our garden and soak up the sun (for the first few days before the torrential rain arrived). And still others may spend extra time of prayer in the chapel, catching up on spiritual reading, and even making rosaries or some other type craft work or art work.
Our time of retreat is particularly precious to us for it allows us to spend time with our Beloved Lord Jesus Christ. He often speaks in silence, like the "still small voice" that the Prophet Elijah heard on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:12). Our daily monastic observances provide us with time throughout our "normal" (non-retreat) days for silence and listening, but the annual retreat is time set aside specifically for this encounter with the Blessed Trinity in the silence of our hearts.
We give thanks to God for the many blessings and graces received during our retreat -- and for all the blessings and graces He has in store for us over this next year! We also give thanks to the English Province for loaning us Fr. Richard as our Retreat Master!
Also, the day after our retreat ended, we celebrated our 23rd Birthday as the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St Joseph -- founded and established as a congregation of Diocesan Rite on the 5th of July, 1994. Deo gratias!