I first came to St Beuno’s to discern a vocation to the religious life under the great love and skill of Sr Anne Morris. I first came on an 8-day IGR and fell in love: with silence, with the place, the community… and through finding love in all these things, began to become aware of God as the mysterious, joyful source of all.

I went on to complete the Spiritual Exercises in 3 parts over the course of the next year. It was my first experience of silence and of spiritual direction. The whole community seemed to rejoice in my joy. I glimpsed what it means to love and be loved. Having worked in hospitality in a former life, I could see the attention to detail in the way the house was run, reinforcing this message of love. It was not a matter of having every modern convenience, it was the small touches, the sprays of flowers, the spotless cleanliness, the consideration of others in keeping the silence. These were the signs of love in action; the working out of the Ignatian principle of finding God in all things.

The gradual waning of energy, strength and competence of middle life had brought me to a realisation that I could not do it in my own strength anymore, even on the good days. This was the un-glorious start of my conversion. I needed God to be on my side if I was going to be able to continue with my life plan. A master of living life on the outside, even my desire to give all to God was an act of self will. And so, the frontlines were established, and a slow war of attrition ensued. The true number of casualties will, I hope, be revealed to me only in the afterlife; the dreams that God had for me, never realised.  

Fatigue and exhaustion have forced me to retreat, to find victories in lesser glories -to let go of saving the world, and to focus on blooming where I am planted. To see the hope in getting through a day at work when we worked generously as a team, when patients felt listened to and cared for. The joy in working out what a patient with dementia is wanting and being able to give it. The love and trust which begins to grow when we bear each other’s burdens.

The discipline of starting the day with prayer and finishing with an Examen - the mainstay of Ignatian Spirituality - has revealed to me how God, and the dark spirit, are moving in my life, and in the world around me.  Introduced to me by Anne in the Spiritual Exercises, embedded in IGRs, themed retreats and Friends’ weekend reflections, this essential Ignatian practice of daily reflection and prayer infused meaning and direction into confused and painful times, as well as gratitude for the good times.

The Examen shows me how a relationship with God is being created in my life, and how this is being achieved with or without me. Even my refusal to cooperate with God’s grace, and the consequences of such conscious or unconscious choices, becomes the clay for the next step in God’s game of love and redemption.

It is tempting to sit back and enjoy the ride, and perhaps us doers need to do this more, and to really trust that the boat, un-ruddered by us, will reach the harbour through God’s grace, in a journey so much more exciting and life-giving than that which we could have designed for ourselves.  It feels like laziness for us Marthas.

How can we feel comfortable sitting at the feet of Jesus when there is so much work to do? And yet, the more I examine my daily life, I cannot remain blind to the truth that much of what I do for God, is in fact done for my own self affirmation and justification. Can I really say that I do anything for love itself? Perhaps, occasionally, on a perfect day, but when I am tired, when the recipients of my “love” are ungrateful or worse, when I feel misunderstood or unacknowledged, or manipulated, I know if I ask for the graces I need to keep reaching out, keep serving, I will receive them.

When we are paying attention to God working in our lives, he can start to show us himself. The relationship develops gradually through our lived experience. The most real relationship we have ever been gifted with. But it is a relationship that is so easily missed, even for those who know of its reality. It feeds on regular attention, listening, waiting, pondering. The Examen and the empty stage that silence creates, are the ways we can unclutter the home which God has made in our hearts, so that he can teach us, day by day, how to make a home in him.  

It was Anne who helped me towards an awareness that I am a beloved child of God, through her careful, gentle encouragement. I am still learning every day how tore-member this Beloved Child. What would have brought me to the brink of despair, now reminds me that nothing can separate me from the love of God. There is a peace and a resilience which remains deeply buried through the traumas of life. It is solid and rich, when I remember to reach down and tap into it.

St Beuno’s: A Faith History, 1848-2023

Since 1848, St Beuno’s has been a place of prayer and encounter with God.

What part has St Beuno’s played in your faith journey? Is there a person, a place or an experience that has helped you to find God at work in your life?

To help us give thanks and celebrate 175 years of St Beuno’s mission, and to inspire us to continue our work in the future, we are asking those who have known, lived and prayed in the house to share a moment from their faith history.

We are inviting contributions of between 400-600 words which can be shared on our website and in our monthly Friends of St Beuno’s e-news over the next year.

Contact Tim McEvoy for more information at friends@beunos.com