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.