Some days in life stay with you. Fr Christopher Jamison’s day on Monastic Wisdom (Saturday 18th June) is likely to be such a day for many people.
Fr Christopher Jamison is a Benedictine monk of Worth Abbey in Sussex who is well known to many for his books, tv series and radio slots which enable modern people to encounter something of the monastic tradition. A former abbot and headmaster, with involvement in a number of organisations including as patron of the Retreat Association, he now works as Director of the Office for Vocation of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Since Chester Cathedral has in its past been a Benedictine Abbey, and since Retreat House Chester shapes its programme round a simple monastic way, it was a joy to us that he came to share in our launch.
The day consisted of two sessions, and people were able to choose just one or both – which seemed appropriate for a day about choosing well. In the morning, Fr Christopher explored the difference between wanting and longing for something, how in our deepest longing there is God, and how silence and prayer can help us discover God for whom we long. He alerted us to our culture’s tendency to make commodities of time and spiritual practices, and suggested ways in which we can ‘make time for God’.
In the afternoon, the focus was on our purpose in life. Fr Christopher spoke of a life lived imaginatively. We considered the need for a sense of purpose rather than only a set of skills, and how that purpose is an expression of love. We heard that, in this way, the purpose for which we do our work and make our life choices is what matters, each with our own particular purpose and circumstance.
In both sessions we were guided by Fr Christopher in a period of meditation. The deep and sustained combined stillness of nearly a hundred people in an otherwise busy cathedral and city was quite wonderful.
These launch events are designed to give a taste of retreat in the city and a flavour of what Retreat House Chester is about. Deep monastic wisdom, practical good sense, generosity, humour and a tangible sense of grace all filled these sessions. We are deeply thankful to Fr Christopher for this and for the day he gave to us in Chester.