About this course
If the material world is beautiful for its wisdom and power,
the spiritual world is more beautiful for its mercy and compassion.
Frederick Faber “Spiritual Conferences
The Blessing Tree by Sr Mary Barnes osb
This retreat takes us into the realm of tears, the tears of compunction that St Benedict talks about in his chapter on Reverence in Prayer (RB 20). It is a calling forth of ourselves to a new and more authentic living; a dive into the deep; a naming of the truth of who we are before God. It is not a fear based compunction that we will enter into, but rather a compunction based on a deep desire to be in oneness with God. The basic meaning of compunction in the Greek and Latin is to "prick" or "pierce" and St. Benedict uses the word to encourage his followers to stir up within themselves sorrow and repentance for their sins.
St. Gregory the Great sees the soul as experiencing an intense longing for its heavenly home once it feels the prick of compunction. He emphasises the point that a person can never understand fully the effects of sin unless he has experienced in contemplative prayer a foretaste of the joys of heaven. He contrasts compunction caused by fear, and compunction brought about by desire and longing for God.
This retreat is not about entering the murky waters of a fear based compunction. Rather it is about taking a step back to look honestly into our heart and soul and to courageously identify that which blocks our capacity to draw closer to God; it is to dip our toe, even just a little, into the healing waters of the tears of compunction, and to experience the full warmth of those waters as we immerse ourselves more fully; it is to be prepared to feel the prick that will come with self-knowledge; and it is to come to ourselves in the reality of who we are.
Perhaps there will be the experience of the physical act of crying or perhaps it will be a different expression of tears. Whatever the case this will be our labour during the retreat, in order to enable us to more readily stand in the truth. When we stand in the truth of who we are, then we are truly free; and when we are truly free we are able to stand in the reality of who we are in relationship to Jesus: we are not fearful, but rather full of confidence in his unbounding mercy and compassion. Then, and only then, is our relationship with him real, personal, and full of the passion that comes with what Benedictines refer to as, “Liberty of Spirit”.
“Our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.”
RB Prologue 4
This is a five week retreat with one conference for each week of Lent. If you are unable to make the retreat during the Lenten five weeks this does not matter. You can make it at any time and at your own pace.