I have been on retreat, the sun shone and the poetry flowed in the silence. Now to some of you that might sound like a penance rather than a joy, for me it was beyond joy. Not only did we explore the nature of priesthood through the words of some of the finest of poets we also explored our own calling in those times though ministry when we can feel like a boat out of water.
The poem that left the deepest impression on me, maybe because it was so different and so unfamiliar was one by Gerard Manley Hopkins who I have always struggled with in the past, ‘The Windhover’ you will find it here if you are unfamiliar with it.
Immediately I sat down and before I knew it had written two A4 pages on just the first three lines. It’s okay I am not going to post them here those words are for my own contemplation, further thought and reflection. It was a sheer joy to be able to spend time really soaking in the words of Hopkins and Keeble, to be challenged by R S Thomas and David Scott, to revisit Little Gilding and other poems I already knew. Within the pictures of many hues and black and white they painted and tunes that they conjured up soaring greats and crashing lows where described in familiar detail and my eyes which had been dulled by the burdens of daily ministry where brightened and opened wide once more – surely that is what a retreat is truly all about.
On top of all this I discovered from something rather wonderful which I intend to place in a prominent position in any church I both now or in the future have anything to do with. It comes from Saint Anselm who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109 and is part of ‘Prayer by a Bishop or Abbot to the Patron Saint of his Church’.
Jesus, good shepherd, they are not mine but yours,
for I am not mine but yours.
I am yours, Lord, and they are yours,
because by your wisdom you have created
both them and me,
and by your death you have redeemed us.
So we are yours, good Lord, we are yours,
whom you have made with such wisdom
and bought so dearly.
Then if you commend them to me, Lord,
you do not therefore desert me or them.
You commend them to me;
I commend myself and them to you.
Yours is the flock, Lord, and yours is the shepherd.
Be shepherd of both your flock and shepherd.