...traditional in every sense, human and Godly, because it was in a snowbound manor house, and it was conducted along formal lines, with silence, early-morning Mass, set gatherings for meditations in the Chapel with a talk from a priest, reading-aloud from an improving book at mealtimes, opportunities for confession, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Stations of the Cross, the Rosary...oh, and porridge and bacon-and-eggs for breakfast, a wonderful library, and a roaring log fire, and I had brought my embroidery...
It was at Wickenden Manor, run by Opus Dei. A time to pray, to ponder quietly, to read, to be with God. The snow invited exploration of the grounds - there were the tracks of deer and of different varieties of birds, glorious silence and a sparkling freshness everywhere. The library offered a feast of good reading. The retreatants included a number of long-valued friends...but by common agreement we didn't chatter, and just somehow felt a prayerful solidarity, catching up on news and shall-we-have-lunch etc only when the Retreat ended on Sunday afternoon.
I will long value the memory of this retreat: the silence of the early morning broken by the voices answering up at Mass - the first words uttered each morning were "And with your spirit" in response to priest's greeting. The chance to think quietly, free from email and internet distractions - perhaps providentially, I had inadvertently left my laptop in a friend's car earlier in the week and the snow meant that the parcel bringing it back to me was delayed until after the weekend. The sense of being among friends, and of being within the family of the Church - during the retreat the priest announced that Pope Francis had instituted a new universal feast, that of Mary Mother of the Church to be observed on the first Monday after Pentecost.
Home through rainy streets on Sunday evening. A new week beginning, mid-Lent and a sense of fresh renewal.