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Retreat in order to advance

We had our annual week of retreat for the Southern area at Douai Abbey, a Benedictine establishment between Reading and Newbury, last week. (There is an equivalent northern week at Ampleforth Abbey, another Benedictine foundation in North Yorkshire.) The facilities are impressive and the experience very comfortable - we are very grateful to our Benedictine hosts. I have never been very good at retreating and I don't associate any particular special experiences with past retreats, but our retreat leader the wonderful Fr Matt Blake OCD never fails to remind us that the work of the Holy Spirit in ourselves is a mystery known only to God - so that I cannot know what God was doing in me over the week. It is frustrating for our pride not to know such things, but ultimately it is enough to trust in the many promises of divine faithfulness in Scripture and in the teaching of the Church. Humanly speaking, the concept of retreating in order to advance makes sense; the youngster wanting to jump across a river has to go back in order to get a run-up. So we hope that the graces of spiritual retreat take effect afterwards.

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