Every year there is annual week-long retreat here at the Begijnhof as there is at my home community.  The challenging aspect of retreats here is they are in Dutch naturally…..but  last year’s was about taking the beam out of your own eye before looking at the sliver in your brother’s eye….. how difficult is that in any language! Even if you only get a few words you have enough to pray about for the whole 45-minute session — at least I did. This year, a monk came from an ecumenical men’s monastery in Belgium: Orthodox and Roman Catholic monks working and living together in harmony.  This Dom was a wise oldish monk with a lively smile, complete with well trimmed and clipped beard; he truly looked like one of the desert fathers and spoke and prayed like one as well. He has been a monastic for over 50 years and has the wisdom of a life lived and given to God to show for it. I honestly felt when he said Holy Ghost or Jesus Christ or God the Father that he knew these persons personally! He spoke in a reverent way about them as if he had just finished a conversation with them. I was awed as much by his demeanor as by his words which of course I only understood maybe 50% this year.  I tried to laugh and nod at the appropriate moments even if I only grasped the general idea but not the specifics of the point being made. The retreat is held in the chapter room, the room in the monastery as at my home community and all monasteries, reserved for important decisions and thoughts. The walls are lined with portraits and photographs of Prioresses, Priests and Beguines from earlier Begijnhof years, an august array lending solemnity to the proceedings and sessions. These previous travelers watched and encouraged us on the Pilgrim’s path.



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