Retreat Reflections: “Much Ado About Nothing”

Debby Walsh and her husband, Dick Hopp, are parishioners at St. James Cathedral in Seattle. Debby attended our February 16-18 retreat “Much Ado About Nothing: ‘Getting it Right’ in Love,” led by Fr. Stephen Rowan, Ph.D.

      Debby Walsh

By the month of February, the sluggishness of wintertime can feel like an undertow on the mind, body, and spirit in the Pacific Northwest. For the past eight years, my husband, Dick, and I have enjoyed a respite to winter doldrums by attending the annual Shakespeare retreat at the Archbishop Brunett Retreat Center at the Palisades. Led by Father Stephen Rowan, a Shakespeare scholar and gifted teacher, this retreat has been for us a time to study, refresh, and recharge our intellectual and spiritual batteries.

To the study of Much Ado About Nothing this year, and all eight plays we’ve studied over the years, Father Rowan brings his vast knowledge of Shakespeare, as well as other literature to which he makes comparisons and contrasts. His bright mind and sense of humor, combined with careful preparation and attention to detail, captivate his audience throughout the weekend. Participants gain insight into the Bard’s treatment of both tragedy and comedy, the cultural and historical contexts of the plays, connections to contemporary events and human struggles, and profound spiritual themes in the plays that may not seem evident at first. One of my many take-aways this year is a quote from Pope Francis, which reflects a key truth in the play: “Communication is an art learned in moments of peace in order to be practiced in moments of difficulty.”

Father Rowan designs the weekend schedule, beginning Friday evening and ending mid-morning on Sunday, with respect for participants’ need to move, to rest, to reflect, and to socialize. We are offered breaks that are long enough for strolls through the campus of the Palisades (which overlooks Puget Sound and islands in the distance), or for naps, journal writing, or visiting with other retreatants. We meet in the morning and evening for the Daily Office in the lovely chapel, and Father Rowan celebrates Mass on Sunday, after which everyone requests a copy of his moving homily in which he ties the day’s readings with the themes of the play we are studying.

The accommodations at the Palisades are simple and clean. The meals are nutritious and plentiful, and the friendly staff is eager to meet the needs of the participants. During the recent retreat in February, we experienced a strong wind storm that briefly took out the power to part of the retreat center. My friend’s room was on the side that lost power, which concerned her because she needed electricity in her room in order to use her CPAP machine for sleep. The staff quickly rigged up an extension cord from her room to a plug-in across the hall where power was on, and they taped down the cord securely in the hallway so that no one would trip over it. This was greatly reassuring to my friend as she anticipated a good night’s rest.

I heartily recommend a restorative retreat at the Archbishop Brunett Retreat Center at the Palisades.