Many thanks to Tim McEvoy and Prim Herridge for organising another memorable Friends’ weekend at St Beuno’s on 24-26 June 2022. We were blessed with lovely weather, not too hot and not too cold, very little rain, wonderful sunsets, and a breeze which cooled, stirred up and tuned our outer and inner senses. Fr Tom gently tuned us to receive all the gifts of summer with the introduction to the retreat with bible verses, poetry, and some of his most recent photos of the surrounds of our beloved Beuno’s. We were particularly struck by a shot of a single flower: a composite straining joyfully towards the sun, protected and sheltered at a respectful distance by the thistles and briars around it. A wonderful image of selfless love, parenthood, teaching and Ignatian accompaniment in action.
This image was reinforced by Deirdre’s use of a poem by Rabindranath Tagore reminding us that only God can cause the bud to blossom, in her morning prayer on our final day. We were reminded that it takes God’s gentle touch to enliven the sap; our attempt to hasten this process can only destroy and desecrate. We can encourage, enable, protect while the tender shoot matures and strengthens and then we let it go, fly, increase as we diminish and get out of the way, giving all the glory to God, where it truly belongs.
On the Saturday morning, Ruth filled us in with a state of the nation report. Building works are being delayed due to supply issues but will continue when they can. We have no date for completion yet due to the uncertainty but the new meeting room should very soon be in use and also part of the refurbished back corridor along to the Boot Room. Our prayer room in the grounds is therefore currently on hold but updates will follow in due course. There are still trees which can be “bought” and donated to the arboretum. Support for Beuno’s is becoming more urgent with the increase in fuel costs and inflation to pay for the fuel and the wages of 9 permanent spiritual directors and retreat givers. Ruth reminded us that Beuno’s is unique in the UK for providing this stability and community. We all belong to the wider community of St Beuno’s in prayer, we would all hate to lose it, either the building, gardens or the community. It is going to get extremely expensive for the Society of Jesus to keep funding it. Perhaps it is time for those of us who can, to show how important it is to us just to know that Beuno’s is there and that the community are praying for us, for the world, and bringing God closer to those that seek him there. We agreed to pray for the retreats and the community in our Friends prayer sessions. Also a regular donation each month, however small, increases Beuno’s financial stability. Please think and pray at this time to discern if you can make such a commitment to help sure up its future.
After lunch on the Saturday, Sylvia, the new gardener, took us on a walk round the gardens in their summer glory. Later in the afternoon, Tim led us towards a new relationship with film in his session Finding God in Film. We then had the opportunity in the evening to watch Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, munch on popcorn and sip our drinks, in the meeting room using the whole wall as our screen. The autobiographical story of his family’s experience of the troubles and the agonising decision to leave for London in the early 70s is a wonderful way in to begin to walk with the stranger and to fathom the pain of the migrant.
On Sunday, Prim and Joy led a Friends prayer group reflection on the day’s gospel which was wonderfully prayerful, and Ruth reminded us that our prayers are much needed and appreciated for the work of Beuno’s. She suggested that we might like to keep a calendar of the retreat diary during the next year ahead and pray with the directors and retreatants. This seemed a wonderful balance to our financial support and will keep us connected and responsive as the wider community of St Beuno’s. We felt privileged to be asked and grateful to Teresa for raising the matter after reflection over the weekend.
A new look at the Examen from Deirdre, enriched our understanding of how this essential Ignatian prayer reveals to us the dance of the spirits and our relationship with God on a day-to-day basis. No wonder St Ignatius admonished his companions to keep up this daily prayer, if all else failed. However we interpret it or connect to it as individuals, the result is a regular awareness of where God is at work in our lives and where our weaknesses prevent our cooperation and the bad spirit gets hold of us. Perhaps a snapshot daily episode of the soap opera of our lives? Much more addictive than Eastenders once you get into it!
A big thankyou to Prim and Tim for organising us all, wonderful sermons from Fr Damian and Fr Tom at Mass and enveloping hospitality from the whole community.
Join us for the next episode of the Friends at our weekend retreat on 25th-27th November!