Preparing for a Retreat and Embracing the Unexpected

On Sunday, which this year will be kept as the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we hope to begin our annual retreat. I say hope because every year something unexpected seems to come along and many of our carefully made plans go a little haywire. Last year we intended to read Pauline Matarasso’s Clothed in Language — a marvellous book — as shared lectio divina. At the last moment, the bookseller delayed delivery by a few days so we ended up reading something different entirely. It changed the character of our retreat, but it was clearly what we needed even if it wasn’t what we intended.

This year we have tried very hard to ensure that we don’t have any workmen doing repairs in the house or any deadlines to meet, but embracing the unexpected is actually a function of a retreat. There is always a temptation to try to arrange things to suit ourselves. We’d like the weather to be perfect, our health untroubled, the food glorious and the books we read and the liturgy we celebrate uplifting. It doesn’t work like that. The purpose of a retreat is to bring us closer to God and there is no getting round the fact that his way of doing things tends to be different from our own. So, we are preparing for the unexpected, and that really means we are waiting, wondering, possibly a little apprehensive, but in a good way. Whatever happens, we shall be changed by our retreat. We may not see the change in ourselves; it may not happen immediately; but it will happen. Of that we can be sure.