The first time my cousin, Sr Mary de Courcy Macdonnell, invited me to an Infant Jesus Sisters’ Retreat, Tigh Iosef, in Ballyferriter, I jumped at the chance. My happiest memories as a child is of our extended family holidays in the west of Ireland. One holiday was on the Dingle Peninsula, not far from Ballyferriter, and a place of outstanding natural beauty.
Integrating the appreciation of creation with the love of God is an aspect of IJ spirituality I find inspiring, especially as I work as a scientist and am a lover of the outdoors. Tigh Iosef is a short drive or 30 minutes walk from several beautiful beaches so there were ample opportunities to enjoy a refreshing swim. Many of us spoke of the unique energy of the ocean and the joy of being immersed in it. Mount Brandon could be seen clearly on a sunny day, majestically towering over the bay, inviting us to pray
So, I feel very blessed each time I am invited to Tigh Iosef, Ballyferriter.
This year the theme was “Gaudete et Exultate”. Each morning Georgina shared with us many nuggets of wisdom from Pope Francis' latest encyclical. To deepen our learning and appreciation we had sharing sessions later in the day. The fact that our paths to holiness are unique and discovering what God calls me to personally, rather than copying someone else, brings me joy. Such memorable quotes challenged my way of thinking. They bring a more joy-filled and peaceful life and enable me not to be discouraged, when giving of myself to others is hard . The invitation not to be vexed by others’ faults, to regard the mistakes and limitations of others with tenderness and meekness, resonated with me. Living the beatitudes, we learned, is the path to holiness.
My cousin Mary is a gifted artist and during the retreat she led several sessions on “art and prayer”. God speaks to us through nature, his word and our own life experience; and after a short meditation, we were asked to paint what emerged for us. We were all given large brushes so we would not focus on producing perfect works of art but rather on the process of integrating what is happening in the subconscious and bringing it to God in prayer.
Since the retreat I often re-read and reflect on “Gaudete and Exultate” and find it is such a rich document.
At the end of our week, some of us had an unforgettable cultural experience. We went to a village pub where musicians played a variety of folk songs and invited others to take part. One man in the pub sang A Mhuire Mhathair (Oh, Mother Mary) which was enthusiastically accompanied by those present. It was refreshing to be in a place where faith is part of everyday life.
One of our retreatants, Anne, brought a beautiful gift of a hand carved cross, made by her father, for each one. It is a lovely and generous memento which is now on my living room windowsill.
Georgina Rosair, Edinburgh, August 2018
Ballyferriter Retreatants pictured above: