Retreat. What?! Where?

I’d booked it months ago – it just seemed like a good idea at the time. But when the week came round I simply couldn’t wait to get away. How long has it been since I went away alone, to stay in a room on my own, with no responsibility for anyone but myself, and nothing I had to do – except whatever I wanted to do? No cooking or laundry or tidying up after someone else – a holiday just for me. In fact, a ‘holy day’ or three, at a beautiful Christian retreat centre in rural Leicestershire, Now owned and run by the Anglican dioceses of Leicester and Peterborough and providing all sorts of courses and retreats as well as B&B accommodation and meals for anyone passing by…
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What is it?
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retreat
verb – to change one’s mind or plans as a result of criticism or difficulty
synonyms: change one’s decision, change one’s mind, change one’s attitude, change one’s plans; back down, climb down, do a U-turn, backtrackback-pedal, row back, retractreconsider, eat one’s words, eat humble pie, give in, concede defeat, shift one’s ground; 

do an about-turn
noun
an act of moving back or withdrawing
synonyms: withdrawal, pulling backflight

I love to start at the beginning and what’s a better foundation than the definition of a word? RETREAT.

I went on one. I did one. Is it a verb or a noun? Both. Leaving out the military aspect, which is all about failure and losing, the online dictionary gives these interpretations… which I find very interesting after the fact, especially the synonyms under the verb about changing, reconsidering and giving in 😉 But I wasn’t really retreating from criticism or difficulty – more from a too busy life. I was in need of a change, a break, time for myself.  So yes, it was an act of withdrawing and pulling back and though it was challenging it was also very restful!

Perhaps the dictionary should include this aspect of ‘retreat’! It’s so necessary in our modern world. I can’t help thinking of the French word ‘retraite’ – which is mostly used to mean retirement from work: one takes ‘la retraite’. But their online dictionary does at least include these other ways of defining the word:

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1 – the action of retiring from a place or activity – retiring oneself, a verb. 2 is the one about finishing work but again, 3 is a ‘moment of contemplation and 4 is also a noun, a place where one can retire – to meditate, rest or resource oneself. Perfect – that’s what I mean. Armies and architecture not necessary.

Though I did have some lovely Tudor architecture to look at on my retreat.

This is  where: Launde Abbey

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It has an auspicious history as an Augustinian Priory founded in 1119 and dissolved by Thomas Cromwell himself on behalf of Henry VIII. He reputedly noted at the time, Screen Shot 2018-09-09 at 13.13.13‘Launde is mine’ before going on to buy it for £1500. But he was executed by his monarch and it was his son Gregory who completed the building of the manor house and lived there with his family from 1540 until his death.

A place like this has a long history and a spiritual history as well. The chapel at Launde has been used for regular daily prayers for hundreds of years and has a special atmosphere, as do the grounds. The house is surrounded by fields of sheep and many individual oaks, with large gardens at the back containing huge ancient trees – walnut, sequoia, cedar, pine, copper beech – as if an arboretum has been planted. There is a small wood at the rear with paths through it and snowdrops in Spring, a summer house on the lawn, a walled garden, two labyrinths and a hut called the Oxford and Cambridge Hermitage – so-called because prospective ordinands from both places lived in it at one time and now revamped using a Lottery Fund grant and painted the appropriate colours of blue. Country roads run through the fields but traffic is minimal; you are as likely to hear sheep and tractors as cars. It is like being in a sacred bowl under the ever-changing canopy of sky…

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I’d visited Launde a number of times before – it is a gift to live so near to such a place. For some time I have been drawn to silence and solitude and to nature as a way of connecting with myself and God, so early this year I chose a week long ‘individually guided’ silent retreat in the ‘quiet month’ of August, and specifically asked to stay in the Hermitage, where I could be alone and away from the main house.

I didn’t know what would happen, what would be required, how I would cope with 3+ days of not talking to anyone – though I was actually looking forward to that part and knew there would be a spiritual director to give guidance. But after an active summer and having not been not 100% well for 2 months the planned week in late August came at just the right time and I drove into the Leicestershire countryside with high hopes…

 

to be continued…   😉

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