Thursday, 6 July 2017

On Retreat

What is it like to be on retreat? Essentially, it as an opportunity to take time out of the regular run of things and use the space for prayer and reflection, exploring what God might be saying.

Retreats, of course, take many forms – and can be of many different lengths. I have developed the practice of making time for occasional Ignatian retreats. These are silent retreats, which seems scary to many, but which I have found to be spiritually enriching.

I go away for six, seven or eight days. The pattern is one of provided meals and a brief meeting with a retreat director at a set time each day. In that meeting we will talk about how things are going and the director will offer some Biblical passages, usually two or three, for prayerful reflection over the ensuing 24 hours.

I may find it helpful to walk the prayer labyrinth. I will certainly go out for (some relatively gentle) walks. I will give myself three or four (or more) times for particular prayer during the day, though one of the great things is that prayer permeates everything in a far more conscious way than tends to be so in ordinary life – though I believe that to be so then also.

For most of the prayer times I sit with one of the passages, often using Ignatian methods of approaching prayer, such as lectio divina or imaginative contemplation (or both) – and I find it helps to offer a slight structure by setting the time I will give on each occasion, somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes, and setting my phone timer to mark the period, not that such has to be used rigidly. The other bit of ‘structure’ is to make a few notes after each prayer time.

Each day also includes a Eucharist and the opportunity (which I take) to join in a half hour period of corporate silent prayer in the chapel.

I could, of course, just do that at home – but I don’t (and I wouldn’t have the daily meeting with a retreat director). I would be the last to suggest that my model of retreat is the right one for everyone – but I do believe that we all need to find our right way of spiritual refreshment.

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