For the last eight days we have been in retreat. (If you want to know what a retreat is, try this explanation.) We all bring different hopes and expectations to a retreat, but for us, as nuns, there is also the hope that we shall have some ‘downtime’ — we don’t have holidays, and week-ends tend to be even busier than week-days, so a retreat is a good time for tidying one’s sock drawer or reading ‘War and Peace’ or whatever one doesn’t usually have time for. I was hoping our more relaxed timetable would allow me to do one or two things in the garden and finish a couple of books, including a heavy tome on Christology. ‘If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.’ I should have realised.
First of all, we had to abandon our plans to join the brethren at Douai for their retreat and settle for something more DIY. I won’t bore you with the reasons, but they included builders and carpenters doing some repairs and renewals during the first dry spell we have had since we arrived. Unfortunately, because we had to keep arranging times and seasons with them, we didn’t put our usual retreat notice on the answerphone. First big mistake. People would call and though we’d politely explain we were in retreat and only answering the ‘phone because we were expecting a call from someone else, it cut no ice. We put auto-responders on our emails, but that didn’t diminish the inflow to any noticeable extent. (We check our emails because people send in requests for prayer and no request is ever ignored, no matter what we are doing.) But the worst mistake was entirely of my own making.
We incorporated our Charity last year and changed the accounting period to coincide with that of our Charitable Trust and our Trading Company. So I awoke one fine morning to the realisation that instead of five months to get our accounts audited etc, we had only five weeks. I spent four days beavering away, getting up early and going to bed late, leaving Quitenun to do all the dog-walking and so on; on the fifth day we went to Ringwood and back, to deliver the boxes to our accountants; and today, our retreat is over . . .
So, what is the lesson I have learned? First of all, I have to laugh at myself. How often do we make plans which we expect God to endorse on the rather specious grounds that they seem good to us? Reading Christology is good, isn’t it, so why would God not allow time for it? Perhaps God is rather more aware of the self-indulgent element in the reading. I was probably rather keener on the ‘me’ bit than the ‘God’ bit of this particular retreat, however I tried to dress it up. We have been working hard for a very long time and the demands on us sometimes seem never-ending. Maybe a misplaced sense of entitlement had crept in. Others have holidays; why shouldn’t we? But we are not ‘others’, nor are we called to live the life that they do. There is another lesson, however, which is so fundamental it comes as as shock when we realise we haven’t yet learned it properly. We seem destined to learn, over and over again, ‘I am the LORD, there is no other.’ Most of us make the mistake of thinking that there are two Superpowers involved, God and self. The truth is, there is only One.