Holy Week Retreat 2023 at Llantarnam Abbey
This short account of the last organised retreat at the Abbey in Holy Week is an effort to record its circumstances and highlight some of the factors that made it so special. Forgive its limitations – it can only be a snapshot description, as it were, of how the retreat unfolded. Two well known quotes seem appropriate for the purpose of this overview:
“God never closes one door without opening another” and
Maxim of Love 10.4
“Never think of the future except in connection with the present, but refer all to the Providence of God”
In reading and re-reading this familiar maxim, the word Providence is key. Fr. Jim Hurley, of the Southwark Archdiocese was booked to lead this retreat but sadly had to cancel as he dealt with an aggressive form of terminal cancer. (He subsequently died before the retreat R.I.P.) Sr. Susan made efforts to find another Director but was unable, in a short time, to find a replacement. In her wisdom, Susan felt the retreat should carry on (21 Sisters made it), and asked me if I was willing to help. We were then a DUO, who felt led by the Spirit to do the best we could to facilitate the retreat, convinced that it was the Spirit who was inspiring and leading us – believing the truth of the quote “Your best is always good enough”. We had a number of meetings to prepare an outline programme – very conscious that the Liturgy and events of Holy Week would provide the backdrop and that the associated Scripture readings would provide the main raw materials for prayer and reflection. Great emphasis was placed on the use of the senses and the use of the Review/Reflection at the end of each day. This Review took place daily before Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. We were fortunate to have Fr. Peter
for daily Mass and the Triduum and Fr. Matthew Carney O.S.B. said Mass twice for us and was available for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Sr. Vincent’s death R.I.P. during the retreat added its own poignancy and was remembered specially on Good Friday when the 15th. Station of the Cross was dedicated to her memory.
Providence generously provided for us in terms of excellent food, lovely surroundings, wholehearted co-operation and participation from the retreatants in terms of the Liturgy and of course we had lovely weather.
The sounds and sights of nature around us were deeply appreciated as we tried to become more aware of what our senses were communicating to us on every level – creation being the primary revelation of God. All of these points were indicated in the positive evaluations we received at the end of the retreat. (Evaluations which will help our Leadership team as they think about Retreats in the future).
Finally it seems fair to say that this retreat, concluding as it did on Easter Sunday, helped us bridge the transition we are all experiencing as we prepare to re-locate. We journey on, in solidarity with each other and all humanity still becoming who and what God wants us to be.
I end (permission granted by the writers!) by what two individuals wrote on their thank you cards:
“This retreat, the way it was guided and the time we had for reflection helped me to see that the more inner work I do on myself, the more I can help others” and “It was a really special retreat. No retreat giver could have given us what was given us – so focused on Holy Week Liturgy, but also very much on our reality and future….. yes the Lord always provides” (Susan and myself felt privileged to facilitate what the Holy Spirit accomplished in our Retreatants and for this gift we thank you most sincerely).