ORDO September 2023

Summer Retreat: The Tangibility of God

A.M.D.G.
S. Pantaleonis, Martyris

This year, the South East of England summer retreat was held at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, located on sixty acres of the picturesque Sussex countryside in Crawley Down. The focus of the retreat was on “The Tangibility of God,” emphasizing our capacity to encounter and recognize the presence of God in a concrete and genuine manner.

In our fast moving car, rushing past traffic on the M23, the slow drive through the beautiful green forests’ tunnel of trees was like passing from the noisy wild world into a haven of peace…

Retreatant

The monastery provided a perfect environment for prayer, as it is home to a community of religious contemplatives. The entire place exudes a peaceful atmosphere that is ideal for deep reflection and meditation. During their stay, the retreatants enjoyed delicious meals in silence, except on the feast of St James the Great when they were encouraged to engage in conversation!

We came seeking the tangibility of God and in those first few moments I became very aware of how tangibile He is in nature…

Retreatant

During the three-day retreat, participants were led by Archbishop Jerome in a series of informative sessions and devotional activities. Each day started with the Traditional Latin Mass and ended with Holy Hour and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, creating a peaceful atmosphere in the midst of nature. Additionally, attendees had the chance to receive the Sacrament of Penance and seek spiritual guidance.

Our discussion times were both interesting and thought provoking. Holy Hour, through silence, music, candles, brought me to the realisation that I could touch God through all my senses. Then @7am Mass each day, as the Host was placed on my tongue, this was the exact moment in which God touched me as my tongue touched Him in Jesus…

Retreatant

A particular favourite of the retreatants was a “Rosary Walk” through the woods surrounding the property, during which Archbishop Jerome gave meditations on the Sorrowful Mysteries incorporating the surroundings, referring to the flora with Scriptural and cultural references to deepen participants’ understanding of Christ’s Passion and the cosmic dimension of the Cross’s centrality to the restoration of creation. The Archbishop encouraged the participants to consider the Mysteries and Christ’s Passion in relation to their own lived experiences and openness to the awareness of God’s Presence in their lives.

There was a deeply moving and beautiful walking meditation in the woodland surrounding the monastery praying the holy Rosary. The presence of God was clearly tangible on this walk.

Retreatant

Conferences centred on the theme of the retreat and explored the different ways God is present to us, encouraging and enabling the retreatants to recognise and be open to acknowledging that God is “… Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all” [cf Ephesians 4:6]. The Archbishop facilitated discussions on how the participants themselves could enable others to become similarly aware of God in discussions about God’s existence regarding nature and their own life experiences.

Our Rosary Walk I found extremely moving – standing as it were in an environment similar to the garden of Gethsemane, thinking of the “bitter cup” facing Jesus and “not my will but Thine” – I asked myself would I have the courage? Or would I be asleep too? Then in the holly tree grove linking Christmas Incarnation with Lent Crown of Thorns. Praying at the crossed pathways and imagining the narrow pathway ahead of me, I confess made my eyes leak…

Retreatant

The Archbishop explained that the very nature of God is love, and that creation is the great outpouring of the love and creative energy that the three Persons of the Holy Trinity generate and have for each other, and by extension that we are gifts of God’s love to each other. Through an exposition of the Divine Economy of Charity and the Commandments, the Archbishop discussed the meaning of life, intimate love, marriage and chastity. He reflected on contemporary ideologies with God’s revelation of Himself and how to understand the real purpose of our lives.

Time was given to allow the participants to ponder their connection with God and reflect on how they perceive His existence in their daily lives. Many took the opportunity to explore the beautiful grounds to think and meditate. When reassembled, they were encouraged to exchange personal anecdotes and instances where they had felt God’s palpable presence. The retreatants were encouraged to open themselves up to the possibility of experiencing God’s love through prayer, worship, service and fellowship.

The final conference reflected on “the tangibility of evil”. How evil manifests itself through the negative actions of people, with or without the suggestion of dark spiritual forces. How evil spirits affect those who, without awareness of God, are open and susceptible to demonic obsession, oppression and possession through suggestion and manipulation of the will. But those aware of God’s presence, who avail themselves of His grace through the sacraments, who keep His commandments and manifest charity, have nothing to fear.

Summing up – it was like an oasis of calm, a relaxation of normal duties, but also an intense time of focussing on God. How significant that it was three days. It helped me to remember how regularly Jesus withdrew to be alone with His Father. It was a time of renewal for me too.

Retreatant

At the end of the retreat, participants were filled with a renewed sense of awe and appreciation for the gift of God’s manifestation within His creation, of His abiding presence. All participants said they felt they had grown spiritually and had a deeper understanding of the tangible presence of God in their lives. They left with a deeper understanding of how to recognize and be open to the presence of God. As one participant remarked, “I now have a much clearer understanding of the Scriptures, and I have been given the tools to better recognize God’s presence in my life and explain it to others.” Through this retreat, participants were able to experience tangible moments that affirmed their faith and relationship with God.