Yesterday I went for a day's pilgrimage to The Friars, Aylesford. Being a Catholic all my life, the fact that I've never been on any retreat whatsoever beats me. Sometimes, I've even shunned retreats as a gimmick to find God in just a day, because I wanted to believe that we can find God anytime we need Him, as long as we try.
I had to get out of bed at 7.50 am to get ready as our troop were designated to leave More House at 9.00am. It was a little foreign for me, getting on a trip with a group consisting mostly of strangers that I've never spoken to, the majority of which were French, as I later found out. I slept during most of the journey while our dedicated priest took us all safely to Kent.
The day was meant to be a day filled with prayer. We started with the rosary along the Rosary Walk. The Joyful mysteries were used for meditation, something I found odd, because I usually pray the Glorious mysteries on weekend. Perhaps there is a flaw in my patterns? Different priests from different universities gave a short reflection on each mystery. The walk and prayer were both refreshing but our group missed the first mystery and voice projection in the early morning in the midst of about 200 students was not as smooth, so I failed to attain a sense of peace and fulfillment. The recitation of the Hail Mary from the front to the back of the group were not in tandem , so I even got a bit frustrated at myself and the people around me.
After the rosary, we were invited to mingle around and visit the teashop, lake and surrounding landscape. I followed Sandra, Alexis, Theo, Alphie and Cornelius to the teashop. There was a brief catch up with Margaret and we also got to take random shots with Sister Mary from London Met and some of her students. The next item on the agenda was Mass, celebrated by the Archbishop Vincent Nichols. The atmosphere reminded me of Mass in St. John's Cathedral in Kuala Lumpur. Perhaps it was the colour scheme, or the contemporary wood art, or the people I was seated with. Whatever it was, it had a good effect on me. Alphie spotted two ladybugs and we played around with those for a bit. I read somewhere that they are a symbol of good luck and if they land on you, they'll whisper your true love's name to you. Gibberish? Sometimes, superstitions can be beautiful too. The theme of the first reading was about Wisdom and in his homily, the archbishop called on us students to revert back to Her in our daily lives. Just a few weeks ago, in a homily at More House, a point about the secular way of living such that we make our own decisions about right and wrong was made. I can make a connection here between these considerations. Although we cannot help but tailor our actions according to the time and space and situations in which we work in, only Wisdom can direct us towards not compromising our own faith. The defense, banking or more specifically, wine or tobacco related industries are examples of the places which could bring up dilemmas for Catholic employees. I've not found myself in a state of confusion as a result of profession just yet but one day if it arises, I should know where to seek advice from.
Lunch was supposed to be a picnic anywhere on the grounds except for in the chapel. The More House/Imperial flocked together for a happy lunch in a warm place. Melissa made great brownies and I remember seeing a fascinating assortment of lunch items from everyone else consisting of egg salad sandwiches, bananas, milk digestives, cereal bars, apples, baguettes, cakes, clementines and even fried noodles.
At 2.15pm, everyone reconvened to the chapel for a talk on vocation. The monk who gave it mentioned one thing which struck me as interesting. He said that we could either choose to be married, or take up the Holy Order or choose to be single. The last state is not something we drift into, but rather it is a state that we choose. For now, I could see no other reasons for decidedly choosing to be single other than a high sense of anti-intrusiveness, a great appreciation of privacy/freedom and the tremendous sense of self-sufficiency. Next, two readings were shared with us: the first was about Elijah finding God in a gentle breeze, not in the strong wind, earthquake etc and the second was about the Anunciation. The theme of our pilgrimage was "Prayer: Silence, Word & Response", and I found these two readings to be in perfect allignment with it. We were given time to be alone before the final Adoration and Benediction, with the choice of going for Confession. Sandra and I got into the queue for the confessionals but never got to them because it took too long and we didn't want to be late for the Adoration. Nevertheless, the moments I spent examining my conscience were one of the most profound for me throughout the day. I felt a gush of a gentle breeze in my mind's eye, similar to that experienced by Elijah, as I acknowledged the wrongdoings that have stemmed from my tiring quest in pursuing my ambitions. I then knew that although I came on this pilgrimage with the hope that my whole day would be filled with peach and I only truly got one moment of honest calm, that one moment was all that mattered.
Back in the chapel during the adoration, two ladybugs landed on my jeans on my left leg. Perhaps God is trying to tell me just how lucky I already am.