L’Arche Cork Retreats- Community as a Quality of the Heart!

“Community is the fruit of our capacity to make the interests of others more important than our own.” Henri Nouwen

It is no secret within L’Arche that balancing regulations and community life is an ongoing, ever evolving challenge. 

In L’Arche Cork, we have been all too familiar with this challenge. In response to it, we decided last year that we would create space within the volunteer year to travel to Rostrevor on L’Arche Retreat’s, facilitated by Maria Garvey.

This space is an open space for all to join but is specifically focused on Assistants and Core Members. We have come back from our fourth trip since November, with one more planned for June, where we hope that some of the Kilkenny community will join us.

From my perspective it has been an amazing experience, though different each time. It has been a time of being together, where we lean into ‘sharing life’ and ‘wasting time together’ in ways that our everyday life often does not allow.

After our last retreat I came away with a very strong sense of connection and community between us all but especially between our long-term Core Members. I felt deeply that they are part of something bigger and older and deeper than I often realise. In many ways there is a network of life and love between them that I and we get to share in.

Listening to old stories being shared between Maria and some of the original L’Arche Cork Core Members, really impacted me as there is a shared history and life there, that needs recognition and holding.

They were part of the original dream of growing old together in love and vulnerability. 

Just as we are part of the current dream of believing, that in community hearts are healed, acceptance is received, disability is re-visioned, barriers are broken and real power lies in vulnerability and service.

And somehow, as custodians of the L’Arche dream, we are called as Henri Nouwen says to ‘be the future leaders who dare to claim their irrelevance in the modern world, as a Divine vocation.”

In light of my experience of the shared lives and history of the Core Members I feel this ‘irrelevance’ speak to me. So many of our days are spent doing and managing and planning for others and yet somehow we, as leaders in L’Arche are invited to invisibility so that the deep life that existed before us and that will exist after us, can live and move and have its being. 

And may we be touched and transformed by its movements.

We look and sound very different now then we did when L’Arche Cork was started and that is a very good thing in lots of ways but the challenge remains to recognise the deeper life that exists beneath the ordinary. 

We are still called to be a people that moves in the rhythm to our slowest member, so that we do not miss the treasure of their hearts. We are still called to realise that giving is truly far more rewarding than receiving. We are still called to recognise the power of presence, friendship and togetherness. 

We are still called to realise we are part of some mysterious thing that reminds us that in loosing we gain, by giving we receive, by being irrelevant we are effective.

“Community is first of all a quality of the heart. It grows from the Spiritual knowledge that we are alive not for ourselves but for one another.” Henri Nouwen.