22 Oct 2012

Year of Faith - "Retreating" into God


“But He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.”[1]
Sometimes it can seem that life is just getting on top of you. Listening to the media in
Ireland or reading the papers you can almost feel the societal stress levels
rising around you as people and families struggle to cope with the consequences
of greed, carelessness and selfishness which have devastated our island
community. It is at times like this when you can truly appreciate the lines
from scripture describing how Jesus sought silence and solace to commune with
his Father to discern his way in life and to gather strength for the journey
and task ahead of him as he travelled towards Jerusalem and ultimately to
“And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose up
and went out, and departed into a desert place, and there prayed.”

Ancient monks used to flee to the deserts of Syria and Egypt to become closer to God.
Our own Irish monks used to live in deserted places such as the Skeillig’s off
the coast of Kerry, undergoing the white martyrdom for Christ. But Ireland
doesn’t have physical deserts available for us to flee to seek the Lord today. Rather
we live in an age where there are many deserts of the heart in our communities,
towns and cities where people may feel that they are alone and adrift in the
midst of a vast crowd and seek some respite for the stress of that sense of
isolation and stress in our individualistic society. Rather than seeking
physical deserts, we need to seek out spiritual oasis to replenish the soul and spirit.
Spiritual oasis are available for desert seekers in the quietness and space of the
monasteries and convents that are scattered throughout the island of Ireland.
Many of these houses of prayer are open to providing time and space for people
to reflect and rest away from the stress of everyday life, while others may be
seeking solace in distress or trying to discern the Lords will for them. They
welcome pilgrims on life’s journey to come and rest a while. But such loaded
terms as pilgrimage or retreat can be a challenging word for us with baggage
and history and misconceptions around the very words themselves.

“A Pilgrimage (or retreat) is a quest for God. There is an instinct in God’s people which
spurs them from time to time to take the road on this adventure of faith. It
means a detachment, a leaving behind for a while the routine of daily life, of
moving from a world of noise into a world of silence. To become a pilgrim means
to enter in some degree into the setting and mentality of the Exodus of the
ancient people of God. Becoming part of a new great company, the pilgrim, as of
old, is experiencing a new awareness of God, a sense of intimacy with God who
cares and directs and provides for all the needs of this journey
As we enter into the Year of Faith perhaps you need to plan some time to Retreat into God. Not necessarily by going to a retreat house (we are conscious of the economic straits people are in) but perhaps to make some time to retreat into silence with God through out the year.
Have you thought of your new years resolution for the new Year of Faith?

[1] Luke 5: 16
[2] Mark 1: 35
[3] John Moloney, Pilgrims with Mary, (Irish Messenger Publications, Dublin, 1976)pg 1

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