Last week, I was at a retreat in Killenard, Co. Laois. Being involved in this work has become a part of my life and I have to say I enjoy it.
On retreat, I meet people – priests, religious and lay – who want to spend a bit of time in prayer and reflection around their own lives. It is something of a privilege to be able to share that time with people and to offer a few thoughts to help them in their reflection. I am never sure what to say I am doing: “Giving a retreat”, “Directing a retreat”, “Leading a retreat” … In truth, quite often I feel I am “on retreat” insofar as I always feel I learn as much as I could ever hope to share.
It is lovely to be with people who are so open to hearing a few words around God, prayer, faith and life. Almost always, there are things said to me during days like these that I remember and re-visit. This week, a sister who works in a hospital told me that a local shop had closed down and offered the hospital chaplaincy team its stock of new shirts so that they could sell them and fund their work.
They had the “sale” and the shirts went out the door like hot cakes. She told me that near the end of the day, an old man came in and said he would love a shirt. She told him to pick two and he did. When he went to pay her, she said “No”, these are my gift to you. He said that could not be but she insisted and then he said to her: “Today, I’ve learned that you don’t have to die to meet an angel.”
Her day was made – so too was his. But there’s something about sharing the kind word and action. Something about going out “in pairs” so that we can encourage and be encouraged along the way.