In 1980 I was a newly ordained deacon in the Church in Wales (one of the first crop of three.) We turned up, as instructed, for our first post-ordination training session and the afternoon speaker was a Jesuit from St Beuno’s: Father Michael Ivens SJ. I found myself totally drawn by what he said, and the exercise he suggested that day changed my life.
He asked us to imagine a statue – a famous statue - and picture it, wherever it was, in a garden, a square or a museum. We were to imagine people coming along, looking at the statue and making comments about it. Then we were invited to imagine becoming the statue and picture Jesus coming along saying something to us. Without going into the details of my particular statue, through doing this exercise, I received a profound insight about myself, and the way I relate to others. It was so very helpful and enlightening. Afterwards I introduced myself and asked if the Spirituality Centre he spoke about was only for Catholics. He said it wasn’t and that I was welcome to come and experience a retreat there. So it was that I made my first IGR in 1981, a profound experience, and from then on, I knew that St Beuno’s was a place I would return to often.
Over the last forty years I have been blessed to be able to make regular retreats there, including the thirty days (the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius) in 1984 as part of the ‘three-month course’ in spiritual direction. Michael remained my spiritual director until his death in 2005 and I will always be eternally grateful for all he gave me during that time.
St Beuno’s is not only set in a stunning location overlooking the Vale of Clwyd with wonderful grounds, but the house itself has always felt warm and welcoming to me. The provision of hospitality in the care taken with the décor of the rooms, the fresh flowers on the desk, the maps provided for walkers and the careful organization of every detail, conveys the love of God in practical ways.
More than that, what I gain from my time at Beuno’s comes through the Scripture-based approach to prayer: praying the Scriptures. This was new to me back then, and made the Bible come alive so that I could really experience it as God’s living Word to me. It was a way of praying I learned not only to use myself, but to share with others in my various roles in parishes and chaplaincies. In this way the blessings of Beuno’s flow out from those who have been fortunate enough to benefit from being there, as they are shared with those who haven’t.
I keep returning to Beuno’s like a homing pigeon, and I am one of many who regard it as their spiritual home. On this 175th anniversary, I give hearty thanks to God for all He has given me through this remarkable place.