The snow and ice has disappeared now, meaning I can continue my retreats journey. The good news is that out of the four retreats I sent emails to enquiring about staying either this weekend or next, I received a positive response. Next weekend I will be going to Poor Clares Convent in Arundel, West Sussex – a Roman Catholic Convent.
I had an email from one of the sisters (there are around 24 living there) saying there was room in their guesthouse, which sits alongside the main convent. The recommended donation is £25 per night, which includes meals.
I’m also relieved that a friend might be coming along with me. It will be great to have some company. If the weekend was themed, as the one at Worth Abbey was going to be (looked at ‘St Benedict Today’), I would be with a group of others also doing the themed retreat, so the experience wouldn’t have been such a lonely one.
But to stay in a guesthouse by myself for a whole weekend feels daunting, so I’m really relieved I have a friend (Heather) coming along. What is it about silence and solitude – and aloneness – that seems scary?
There will be some structure to the weekend. I received a timetable giving an outline of the times each day they have prayer services, Mass and Compline (evening prayer).
I’ve done a bit of research before I set off on Friday, mostly from the website which is really comprehensive. The convent is an enclosed contemplative community that follows the rule of Saint Clare – a friend and contemporary of Saint Francis of Assisi, and the first woman to write a Rule for other women. Poor Clares is a religious order for women who want to lead a contemplative life – a life dedicated to God through prayer.
Apparently there are Poor Clares communities all around the world that follow this Rule. They are called ‘Poor’ Clare communities because, they have no money, don’t own a house or any land or have any fixed income or investments. One of the main source of income for them is the guest house.
Something else that’s really interesting about Poor Clares Arundel is that it was where the television series The Convent was filmed a few years ago, which followed the lives of four women who stayed in the convent for six weeks. I think I only ever watched one episode and remember it being interesting but not quite as entertaining at The Monastery series that came before.
The other good thing about this particular convent is that it’s not too much of a hassle to get to from London; I can jump on a train from central London and get there in an hour and a half.
So relieved that my first retreat weekend won’t be one in total solitude…