ALIVENESS AND RETREAT

THE WORD RETREAT is spoken by me or to me (thank God) a dozen times in the average week. I’ve had conversation today with someone who’s writing about Retreats, and yesterday with someone looking forward to being on one. And I’m reading retreat, and praying retreat – the bare necessities in a parish priest’s toolbag – every day.

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift …

Carol Ann Duffy, from Prayer

Retreat affords the possibility of a lifting of the head, of a sitting or standing stock-still; the possibility of a Word that comes, surprisingly, from we know not where, except that we hear it, feel it, somewhere “deep in there”. Retreat does not involve lack of concern with the external world, our own, or the world of others. It is, rather, a place to take the world and its concerns – and our own – to. Retreat, as Brother David teaches (see his talk on The Meaning of Retreat in the video above), is often a place of solutions and resolutions. “The solutions lie”, he says, “in our aliveness. This is what spiritual practice is all about – aliveness.”