The sun shone, the skies were blue and the heather was colouring the Wicklow Mountains in a hue of purple, as we arrived at the Hermitage Retreat Centre for the Clongowes Parents’ Retreat, on Friday the 22nd of April. Anne Marie Dolan and Declan O’Keeffe had arranged a wonderful day of reflection and exercise for the group of parents and the Headmaster, Mr Chris Lumb, who were fortunate to be able to attend.
After tea and scones on arrival, we spent a few minutes as a group getting to know each other and contemplating and reflecting on the day ahead and on what motivated us to take part. We listened to a short passage from Scripture which related to what we were trying to achieve. It was generally agreed that taking time out to spend on our spiritual health is not a priority which makes the top of the list, in our very busy, device-centred modern lives, but all present felt they had a need for some Soul Food.
We then set off up the mountains following our intrepid hiking leader Declan O’Keeffe. He had mapped out a beautiful walking route for us to follow; at times we walked in silence, so we could enjoy and soak in the sounds of nature and concentrate on the beauty surrounding us. The walk wrapped around the lakes of Glendalough and up some adjoining hills with views that made you understand why this ancient area has been a spiritual centre for so many centuries – it really is a little bit of Heaven on Earth – especially when the sun is shining and you are in the company of a wonderful group of positive and genuine people.
Stopping for our picnics in the ruins of an old church, the chat was easy and the view nearby divine. We made our way back and 15kms from whence we started, we found ourselves in yet another beautiful church, where Fr McGuckian celebrated Mass for us, with musical and vocal accompaniment by the talented Anne Marie. Her rendition of Amazing Grace was indeed amazing and most moving. We then retired to the retreat house to end the day with some reflections and sharing of thoughts on our wonderful day and with gratitude to God for all we had experienced.
While some had to part company at that point, the rest walked or drove the short distance to the Wicklow Heather Restaurant, where a generous and delicious meal was waiting to be served. As the sun was setting we parted company and a complete and most fulling day drew to a close. As the words of the hymn we sang earlier: ‘Take this day, make it yours and fill me with your love’ rang in my ears as I drove away, all I could think of was how privileged we were to have been part of such a beautiful day and how manifest those words now were.
Roll on next year! Amen to that I say, Amen!
Roisin O’Connell Hussey