Sunday, August 23, 2009

Retreating is Good for the Soul

It has been much too long since my last post. The summer has been a busy one. And that's the truth! All the more reason for me to look forward to six days of quiet personal hermit retreat within our monastery during last week. This is not to be attempted in the normal family home. I know. I tried it. Doesn't work. Sometimes it doesn't even work in a monastery where one's responsibilities may tend to lure one out of solitude. In the family home there are even more ways to be pulled back into the fray. At least here, the meals get prepared, everybody is with the program and does not break into spontaneous conversation upon meeting you in the hall. And there is nothing else that you have to do except to be alone with God. Even in a contemplative monastery the need to occasionally go apart is necessary.

Since our monastery has an almost park-like setting, with paths to walk and a road for strolling down to the river bank, communing with God in creation has great importance for all of us. However, hazy, hot and humid descended last week closing off outdoor meditation as an option. It could have felt like house arrest but it didn't. By the time the days of retreat arrived I felt that I was pretty short on energy and would not be bringing very much to the relationship. I began to mull over the image of spiritually preparing for the retreat as the construction of a humble hut in which to entertain the Lord and listen to whatever He might have to share with me. The weather conspired with the plan and so I spent much time in the humble hut, disposing myself to absorb grace from His presence. And so it was.

For guidance I chose a book I heartily recommend, Moment by Moment - A Retreat in Everyday Life, by Carol Ann Smith, SHCJ and Eugene F. Merz, SJ. (Ave Maria Press, 2000). I quote from the cover:

Drawing on the classic retreat model, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Moment by Moment offers a new and inviting way to find God in our often busy and complex lives. In a series of 32 "Moments," the text guides the reader with thought-provoking questions, practical suggestions, and excerpts carefully chosen from scripture and The Spiritual Exercises. Its simple format can be used by an individual or by groups in a number of ways: as a way of making The Spiritual Exercises in daily life, as a guide for daily prayer, as a companion for reflection, or as suggested themes for a retreat. Drawing upon their extensive experience as spiritual directors, the authors write in their introduction, "This book offers a way to reflect and sift through one's multiple life experiences and to discover in them the leading thread of God's longing and desire to make us a holy people who are given in service to others."

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