This evening, Heather and I will get on a ferry to make the ninety minute trip to Port Angeles. The next day we will drive five hours to Carlton, Oregon where we will settle for four days into a world that is dramatically different from that which we normally inhabit.

On Monday we are going on retreat at Our Lady of Gaudalupe Trappist Abbey,

In Luke 14:26 Jesus is reported to have said,

‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.’

In this dramatic and somewhat offensive statement, Jesus claims that there can be no attachment that precedes our commitment to the invisible reality of God’s presence at the centre of life.

To go on retreat is to intentionally walk away from those structures and preoccupations that normally appear to take centre place in our lives.

When Heather and I get on that ferry this afternoon, we will leave behind our country, our home, our family, our work, and all our human connections. We will enter a world that knows nothing of the external realities that define so much of our lives.

The brothers at Our Lady of Guadalupe, know nothing of the work we usually do. They do not know that we have two beautiful daughters and three spectacular grand-daughters. They have no idea what kind of home we live in, or what friends and acquaintances we may have.

The only thing that matters in the Trappist Abbey is that the central desire of our lives is to to open more deeply to the invisible mystery we call God. Everything at the monastery is oriented to allow us to hear the One who calls us to step aside for a moment from our attachments in order that we might live more consciously in tune with deep gentle rhythms and patterns that give life to our spirit.

It is not that we devalue the usual fabric of our lives. But, on retreat,for a moment we take all the details and preoccupations that usually crowd our days and, we set them aside. We say to our normal obsessions, “We are going over here; you sit down over there and be quiet. We will get back to you soon; but for now you just sit still and behave.”

We are gently pushing off centre stage the clutter and noise that characterize so much of our daily routine. The things that seem so urgent most of the time are not the most important part of who we are. They are not, in the end, the defining reality that give meaning, shape and significance to our lives.

Jesus said,

‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.’ (Matthew 6:24)

On retreat, we affirm that we have only one Master.

Having put everything else in its place behind that one Master, we return to our usual lives with a renewed awareness of the Master’s presence, guidance and wisdom. We come back to the routines of our normal lives with a renewed spirit.

Having gone on retreat we are better able to live from that place within ourselves that is guided and sustained by the deep mystery of silence that speaks to us in love. Our consciousness of God’s unfailing presence, that we so easily forget in the busyness and clutter of our lives, is renewed in our time apart on retreat. I cannot think of a more valuable way to spend four days.