I Stole This Book from a Nun
Let me explain. It was about 10 years ago. I was on my first silent retreat… at a convent on the banks of the St. Laurent River in Québec. To be honest, I didn’t know what to do on a silent retreat. After about the first hour, I was tired of the silence. I read the Bible for a while. 2 hours gone, what now? I roamed around the convent and found a small collection of books on a hallway shelf. Browse. Browse. Hmmm. Wellsprings. A Book of Spiritual Exercises. Open. Flip. Skim. hmmm. I’ve never heard of spiritual exercises before….Surely they wouldn’t mind if I took this back to my room?
So I present to you this month’s resource: Wellsprings – A Book of Spiritual Exercises by Anthony de Mello. I’ll give you a few quotes from it throughout the month, so check back.
Now back to the silent retreat….this book gave me something to do in the silence. It taught me how to engage my imagination….how to systematically organize and explore my thoughts in silence (as opposed to allowing them to just go wild as usual). Over this short but intense weekend, Wellsprings had become my good friend…..so I “accidentally” took it home with me. Don’t worry. I later bought my own copy and returned it to the nunnery.
As I continued to expose myself to these spiritual exercises, they inspired me to write my own. (And I want to inspire you to write YOUR own… hint, hint. ) Many of which have been very meaningful to people throughout these years. Enough talk. Let me share one of the exercises with you.
Since I have brought you into my own retreat experience I will leave you with an appropriate meditation from page 148-9. (Remember, this is not normal prose or poetry….it is designed to be read slowly, allowing for pauses…..time for your own reflections from your own context.)
My retreat has come to an end,
and I think of the days that I have spent in these surroundings.
I see an image of myself as I was when I came here
and I look at myself as I am today
at the close of the retreat.
I think of the persons and places
that have been a part of my retreat.
To each of them I speak in gratitude
and to each I say goodbye:
other places, other persons call to me
and I must go.
I think of the experiences I have had,
the graces I have been granted
in this place.
For each of these too i am grateful.
I think of the kind of life I have lived here,
the atmosphere, the daily schedule,
I say goodbye to them:
another type of life awaits me,
other graces, other experiences.
And as I say goodbye to persons,
I do so under life’s imperious bidding:
if I wish to be alive
I must learn to die at every moment,
that is, to say goodbye, let go, move on.
When this is done, I turn to face the future
and I say, “Welcome.”
I think of the work that waits for me,
the people I shall meet,
the type of life I shall be living,
the events that will take place tomorrow.
And I extend my arms in welcome
to the summons of the future.