"For he hath hidden me in his tabernacle... he hath protected me in the secret place of his tabernacle" (Psalm 26:5; Douay Rheims).
Hiding places have always been my secret love. When I was a little girl, I used to build forts at home and off in the woods or at the park. I would happily stay there in my little shelter, munch on plain bread, and either read or contemplate life.
I am not so very different all of these years later. The spirit of a little girl is still very much alive and well in my soul! I have traded woodland cottages for other favourite spots and hangouts, but the contemplative hideaway is essentially the same. A few hours curled up in a sunny spot (I must be part cat!) is at once soothing and re-charging.
Several weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to visit an order of hermit nuns. These beautiful souls are hidden away entirely from the world, deep in the woods and in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Their spirituality is very much based on silence, solitude, and contemplation.
I was given my own little hermitage. Amazingly, this wood cottage held two levels. On the ground floor, there was the sleeping area, the kitchen, a small dining area, and a washroom. An intricately carved staircase led upward, into a private prayer room. All of this was hugged by a warm, inviting front porch and a one large chair. The view-- a large lake below steep rocks-- was breath-taking!
As lovely as this was, I began a love-hate relationship with my spiritual retreat. In the morning there was Matins, Holy Mass, and silent adoration afterward. Each evening I would make my harrowing hike back up the stone path for Vespers. In between those two "community" events, I did a lot of reading and praying. It was a beautiful experience but, surprisingly, also very lonely. Some days, I relished being the only guest hermit there during my stay. At other times, I longed for at least some form of communication with others. The friendly, furry animals outside my porch began to look like potential friends. I think I did break down and talk to one. :-)
The retreat was beautiful. God's presence was very much felt in the silence. At one point, His Spirit was so overwhelming and overpowering, I began to weep for joy.
I also enjoyed several funny "misadventures." I once found myself to be incredibly lost in the woods during a heavy rain shower. At another time, I had just finished cleaning my little hermitage and was in a long summer dress and apron. I had planned on resting for a few moments out on my front porch but, when I shut the door behind me, I had a sudden "Uh oh" moment. The door was locked. My keys were inside. When my little nun friend saw that I had walked barefoot uphill and on small stones after having locked myself out, she laughed. I laughed along her, but it was still not an experience I wished to repeat. Eventually, I kept a window unlocked so that I could simply "break in" to my cottage.
In the end, I was very glad to return home to my Husband, to my cat, and to technology! Silence and contemplation are an important part of my spirituality, but I was not called to be a hermit nun. :-)
These days, I have been on another sort of "retreat." This time it is within my own home. The image that comes to mind to express this beautiful reality is of a cocoon. I am finding it beneficial to work very closely with my Husband-- often over his knee-- to get out some of the deep roots of past abuse. (Ladies, as pretty as "Purpleheart" wood paddles may look, pray that your husband never is given one!) May God be pleased for this little larva to come forth, in time, as His butterfly.
I pray that your soul too may be undergoing a sort of "cocoon" transformation. May we all rest in Him... This rest of vital change that is so necessary to emerge as the souls He wishes for us to be.