This Year’s Grail Retreat in Sobrado, Spain
Karen O’Brien

This past May, Judith Blackburn and I were fortunate to be able to attend the Grail retreat held at the Cistercian monastery of Santa Maria in Sobrado, Spain. An ongoing collaboration between the Swedish and the Portuguese Grail, in friendship with the Cistercian brothers, this annual retreat was a time of rest, renewal and deepening relationships between the Grail women who, this year, came from Sweden, Portugal and the United States.

This year’s theme was Streams of Living Water, not a surprising choice once you arrive in this region of Spain, which is as moist and verdant as Ireland, its landscape filled with clear streams and lakes alive with all sorts of creatures. Thus, our reflections and activities were often centered on water, or the lack thereof, physically and metaphorically, in Scripture and in our lives. We spent time each morning praying, dancing, singing, creating art, sharing our faith and even doing yoga and meditative walking together. Our afternoons were free to enjoy the area and each other. The entire day was punctuated by the Liturgy of the Hours, and the monks’ kind invitation to worship with them.

Because the monastery also hosts, within their confines, a pilgrim’s inn for travelers on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, we took advantage of the nearness of the “camino” and walked it one day together for approximately fourteen miles through beautiful rural scenery. It was a treasured experience to be walking the same path followed by thousands of fellow seekers for hundreds of years, and on our walk we encountered many friendly and helpful people who went out of their way to enhance our experience.

Likewise, the hospitality of the monks at the monastery was warm and exceptional in its generosity. They allowed us access to much of the monastery, including a visit to their beautiful private gardens. Despite trying to live lives of silence, they were very welcoming and deeply concerned that we have a good experience during our stay, and we felt their friendship, support and prayers during our time with them.

If you would be interested in being part of next year’s retreat experience, you can contact Kerstin Jacobsson of the Swedish Grail at for more information. I would highly recommend taking part in next year’s retreat, not only as a way of deepening your relationship with several of our international Grail sisters, but also for a wonderful, personal experience of renewal, hospitality and healing.