Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of visiting the Eastern Point Retreat Center in Gloucester, MA. I went on an 8 day silent retreat with some of my cohorts in the Ignatian Colleagues Program. Here’s a small part of what I learned.
One thing the rocks of Gloucester, MA taught me is every step has a consequence. These grand boulders are not for folks with weak knees, back issues, or lacking good balance. Every rock counts. Every step matters.
When the seals arrived, I knew that I would make a careful trek down the rocks. Some rocks were dry, some covered in algae, and all took calculation. Sr. Irene stood watching the seals, watched me begin my climb. It took me nearly 90 minutes roundtrip and she never left her post. In the middle of my climb, when I was most certain that I’d made a poor choice, I turned back to see if someone was nearby in case of a fall. There she stood by the shore, like a lighthouse and gave me a slight wave.
Her presence sent me further, with more confidence and renewed energy. Once again I turned, and she was still standing her ground.
Lighthouses come in all shapes and sizes; dotted along the coast, few sea lovers can resist the pull to visit. Perhaps just the words “light” and “house” conjure up a sense of safe passage and security. Maybe in some wayward sense, we need our own lighthouse or at least someone willing to hold the light for us.
Who stands for you, offering you light? Who do you stand for with watchful eyes? These questions followed me as later in the day I laid on a warm rock in the sun.
I didn’t know Sr. Irene, only through passing one another in the halls of the Eastern Point Retreat Center. We were both on our own spiritual journeys; hers a 30 day retreat, mine only 8 days…both silent. But I felt a connection and before leaving I knew we’d become friends.
She’d been my lighthouse and I am grateful.