Jamberoo Abbey-part one.

Two weeks ago I actually left the comfort of home and travelled to New South Wales to visit Jamberoo Abbey. The Abbey was featured on a not-awful-reality-show years ago and ever since then I’ve wanted to visit (even though I’m fairly sure that was right in the middle of my ‘I’m an atheist and you’re an idiot’ phase so who knows what was going on there?). I planned to go last year but pulled out because comfort zone and all that but I finally made it and I so incredibly glad that I did.

It didn’t take a whole lot of planning obviously (because one plane and one bus is something that even I can organise) but it took a lot of mental fortitude to leave my children- hence the postponement from when this was meant to happen back in December.

This is the kind of conversation I had in the weeks leading up to it;
“So what’s happening with you, Eva?”
“I’m going up to Sydney for a silent mediation retreat type thing and I’m so excited (I called it a ‘meditation type thing’ because I don’t know what kind of circles you hang in, but in mine you don’t announce that you’re going away to pray and attend chapel 6 times a day)
‘Great, Sydney! Where are you going to eat/shop/ sightsee?’
‘Actually I’m going to get straight on a bus and travel for several hours into the bush where I’ll spend two days in silent contemplation. Then I’ll get back on a bus and go straight home. I’M SO EXCITED!’

At which point the person wanders off to find some a bit more interesting who doesn’t consider that sort of shenanigan to be a good time.

I suppose that describing the goings on of a weekend when you essentially did nothing doesn’t make for particularly good blogging. I read, I went to Vespers and Compline and Lauds and all those other lovely things that make you realise how important it is to insert ‘sacred pauses’ within your normal day. I did go shopping, because there was a little book shop and it was lovely to spend some time looking at Catholic books instead of the more easy to find Protestant ones that I usually find myself reading (this photo is of my stash. Too tiny, but click if you’re interested).

Now, becoming Catholic has always been a concept that has loitered around the periphery of my mind (my family blames a show called ‘Brides of Christ’ that screened here in Australia during the ’80s). I’m fairly sure at this stage that it’s never going to happen, principally because it seems like a lot of effort for something that I don’t really feel hugely convinced about. I do feel drawn to it but I think that its more of a cultural thing that a deep conviction. Heck, I have enough trouble actually calling myself a Christian. There’s a whole lot more baggage you have to take on board to get to Catholic-city. There’s more side-eye WTF about Catholicism for me than there is about Christianity in general so I’d have to go all Saul/Paul to convert at this stage. Which would be entertaining for all I’m sure but unlikely.

But there are things that I love about Catholicism which are able to be integrated with my own beliefs, as much as I’ve criticised people who cherry-pick bits and pieces of spirituality for their own gratification. So much wisdom is to be found within the great Catholic writers and thinkers. Ignatian spirituality is wonderful, and I’m looking forwards to eventually finish Julian of Norwichs’ ‘Showings’ (actually one of the Nuns recommended to more digestible Julian book that you can see in the photo) and I loved “The Way of the Pilgrim” (which prompted me to buy The Philokalia. Have you ever tried to read that?? Jesus. I’ll get back to it when I finish rereading Summa Theologica for the third time).

In between bushwalk and sitting and listening to the Nuns singing, I finished reading several books (Gods Smuggler, Six Sacred Rules for Families and Something Other Than God), journalled (as much as I do which isn’t much) and contemplated life and all that it entails.

Of course the crushing realisations of how I can be a better mother and person that come when you have time away from your children and real life made an appearance early on, but once I got through the general self-loathing part of the weekend it wasn’t half bad. Somewhat surprisingly (because I thought the pressure of YOU ARE IN THE PRENSENCE OF NUNS, GET YOURSELF A RELIGIOUS EPIPHANY!! would mean that I’d end up playing Candy Crush for two days) I did have some useful and potentially meaningful spiritual thoughts. Potentially, because if I don’t actually follow up these ideas then they will just fade away into nothing, wont they? I’m going to have to pursue some rabbit holes a bit further, I think, but I do like a new idea to wrestle with.

I’ll elaborate more on these next post. Not because they are amazing and merit their own space but because this is already stupidly long and rambling.

Incidentally, do you have any idea how many subscribers you lose when you abandon your blog for four months? About 40, that’s how many.

19 thoughts on “Jamberoo Abbey-part one.

  1. Hey Eva, that sounds great! I have several friends who are not Catholics but went on a retreat at Jamberoo Abbey, and they loved it too. It’s a great location, which doesn’t hurt. I’ll look forward to what else you have to say.

    Just an idea: if you took any photos there, you may be able to make one the blog photo instead of the one that comes with the theme. THis one’s excellent, but something personal to you may be good too.

    • Yes, it’s much easier to feel in touch with God when you’re in beautiful and peaceful surroundings! Even I’d be able to pray if I lived there πŸ˜‰
      I was wondering about personalising the photo- I’ll look into it, thanks.

  2. Your reading list looks very similar to mine :-). Glad to hear that you had a wonderful retreat. I can definitely relate being able to feel closer to God when you are surrounded by nature. Looking forward to Part II of your retreat.

    W. Ockham

    • Thanks William. I’m interested in hearing whether you’ve committed to the ‘8 months retreat in daily life’. I followed your link and it looks fascinating if a little onerous!

      • I haven’t committed yet; I echo your thoughts on it being both fascinating and onerous. I want to learn more about it first. I view it similar to a marathon; I need to know the regiment and the time required before I commit to it πŸ™‚

  3. Long time no …read. I was pleasantly surprise to see in your photo a book by Richard Rohr one of the few authors who can capture my imagination these days. It looks like your journey is smooth and I am curious to see where you are heading.

    • Richard Rohr is wonderful, isn’t he? I heard him interviewed on the radio last year and was amazed by his insights. I’m trying to read everything written by him that I can found. What would be your recommendation of his best book?

      • I have “Yes, and…” and I have almost finished it. It is a collection of short excerpts from his other books so it gives you the opportunity to pick the one you like afterwards. I like it because I can spread my reading over a much longer time than usual and I can pick from whatever page I feel like.

  4. Ah, Eva! So many questions! First up – do you subscribe to RR’s daily reflections? I know a number of locals who do and find him both comforting and challenging as a part of their daily practice. Second, do they let boys go to Jamberoo? And last, for the moment, how was the ‘community’ dimension of the experience? (Is this in part 2?)

    • There were several men staying there, so you should look into it. There are also facilities for groups to spend time there together so while you’re not encouraged to have crazy loud parties, group retreats for prayer and reflection are certainly fairly regular.
      There is a sense of ‘community’ because you’re all getting up at 4.30 am to go to Vigils together, and you are all on some sort of spiritual quest (I assume). You don’t really interact with other people though, and the nuns are off being nuns so I found it fairly isolating (I mean no negative connotations there). Of course I was there during the weekend so it may be a hive of activity at other times.
      I can see that taking a group of people there so that you can have the duality of time to connect and time in reflection would be valuable- although not for me because I would have spent all my time worrying about what I’d just said to someone rather than actually contemplating and reflection :).

  5. You’re so open minded and …. OPEN. I’m a little bit in awe of you. It’s too easy to give up when things seem a bit challenging to our thoughts and beliefs. I admire that you keep challenging yourself and not staying with the comfy womfy. It seems that you push a little further each day.

    The retreat experience sounds wonderful. Sacred pauses are a lovely way to be mindful and present and contemplative.

    Glad your writing this blog again.


      • Bwahaha- worst of all typos to make πŸ˜‰
        When things get to challenging I go quiet for a while, have you noticed that? Actually, not challenging, when they get atheistic again I have a break. But I’m always pulled back to the thinkin’!

  6. Just wow. This is something I’ve always desired to do. I’m thrilled you’ve done it and shared this report. Glad to see you’re back (and I like the new look.)

  7. Thanks for the reflection and reminder… I spent a week at a Benedictine monastery in Alabama on retreat with a program (Certificate in Christian Spiritual Formation). I too enjoyed the sacred time and silence. I lol’d when you talked about the bookstore… I did the same! The sacred rhythm is hard to maintain outside of the monastery but my wife and I are trying.

    Good to “meet” you!

  8. It’s lovely that you and your wife can share that- it probably makes it both more difficult and easier at the same time.
    I think your blog is quite new? I’d love to see you write more; your posts are beautiful πŸ™‚

Comments are closed.