I just got back from making a retreat at Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The retreat house, owned and operated by the Jesuits, is located on a piece of rocky land that juts out into the Atlantic. It is a historic spot. The first European to see Gloucester Bay was the French explorer Samuel de Champlain. In about 1606 he spotted the bay as he sailed down the coast and, in his log, described the huge boulder that still sits at the end of Eastern Point. Champlain didn’t enter the bay for fear of “disturbing the natives.” In time, Gloucester became a great fishing port. Today it is still the home of the Gorton Fish Company. Another local resident who achieved fame and fortune was Clarence Birdseye, who perfected the quick-freezing method for fish and vegetables.
The retreat house itself is a lovely, huge mansion built by John and Marie Prentiss in 1921. (See www.easternpoint.org) It was constructed of stone from the quarry on the property. The floor in the lobby is alternating black and white marble from western Vermont. Most of the rooms have beautiful fire places and large windows that look out upon the ocean. The spacious back yard offers many places to just sit and behold the sun rising, the tide coming in and out, or the waves crashing against the rocky shore. Or you can venture out onto the rocks and sit and pray as you watch the fishing trawlers or sail boats go by.
Over 40 people made the week long retreat—about eight sisters, one bishop, three ordained ministers of other denominations, two married couples, and other lay men and women from all walks of life. Each of us was assigned a director (a Jesuit, a sister, or a lay person) with whom we met each day for 30-45 minutes. The rest of the day was filled with silence, prayer, and solitude. Mass was at 5:00 each evening in the “great room” of the house.
The retreat was a wonderful experience for me. During the course of the week I even wrote a few poems. I’ll share one with you now.
“The Rocks and the Sea”
I say to the rocks and the sea: Who’s winning?
Who’s winning the contest?
You, Rocks? Hard, immovable, impenetrable?
Or you, Sea? Soft, undulating, splashing and crashing
against everything in your way?
Though today the contest looks like a draw,
I know in time the Sea will win.
I’ve seen the cracks in the rocks
and the pools of water in the fissures.
I’ve seen the huge boulders worn round and smooth
like an elephant’s rump—
all by the sheer persistency of the waves.
I say to God:
O Sea Beatific,
keep splashing and crashing over me,
your stubborn little rock.
I prayed for all of you while I was on retreat. My reflective question for you today is this: Have you had any “spiritual experiences” with water–a pond, a lake, a waterfalls, the ocean?