These words summarise what brought together the participants in the International Spirituality Week (23 to 27 July). The ‘art of living’ is another way of expressing ‘spirituality’. A group of around ten people attended the retreat programme, having been personally invited by Rev. Michael Bangert and Archbishop Joris Vercammen. The aim of the week’s activities was to explore with a group of (primarily) non-theologians what being Old Catholic means to them and to identify shared experiences. In doing so, the organisers wanted to find out the extent to which theoretical aspects of Old Catholic spirituality work in practice.
The retreat was hosted by St. Willibrord’s Abbey in Doetinchem, the Netherlands. Each day was structured around the monks’ prayer times, with brief introductory sessions in between. A large amount of time was dedicated to personal reflection and the sharing of experiences of church and prayer. The participants, who represented all age groups and a wide range of career backgrounds, spoke very openly about their experiences and created a spirit of fellowship that infused the entire week. Thanks to the good weather, the group was able to fully appreciate the natural beauty of the abbey’s surroundings. They enjoyed the hospitality and inspiration of the monks, who were very interested in the development of the week’s theme.
The participants were happy to discover that they had more in common than they thought in terms of their spiritual identity. This discovery brought them perceptibly closer together.
Together the group identified three main aspects as strengths of the Old Catholic faith and life: the connection with life and the world, the relationship-orientated side of being human, and communion with God. It will be interesting to see how these aspects are further addressed as publications on some of the related issues appear.