16 June 2008

Directed serendipity

For the past five years, I've been interested in Silent Ignatian Retreats offered by the priests of Miles Christi. Now, it would seem, I'm being nudged to go on one of these retreats.

My father went on many informal retreats. Along with a priest friend, they would load up the car and head to Iowa to visit another priest friend my father knew from childhood, then they would head to the nearby Trappist monastery for the weekend. As a child, I always thought the things he brought back with him, incense and breads, were such treats, too young to ask about the retreat.

Looking back, retreats must've been a way for my father to recharge. And, a way to grow spiritually and move through the various rooms in the castle described by St. Teresa (my father was a Third Order Carmelite). By the time I was in college, my father was spending hours each day in prayer, a great deal of it consisted of prayers for the intentions of others. Without grace, I don't know how anyone could persist at this level. Obviously, when God calls us, He gives us what we need as along as we are receptive to His grace.

This year at the Homeschool conference, a Miles Christi priest seemed to have a desire to talk to me about the retreat. Granted, he could've been eager to get the message out to everyone at the conference, but he pulled me out of the crowd. Two friends I ran into at the conference also encouraged me to attend the retreat. One was so insistent that she offered to pay for half the retreat because I mentioned it was a lot of money for me right now.

Maybe it is time. I had been drawn to the retreats, but for the past few years was either nursing, had an infant to take care of, or both. Plus, the retreats aren't cheap, costing almost $200. I can't even remember the last time I spent $200 that wasn't for for car repairs or heat. However, if I make this a priority, I could save a little each month. The lay person manning the Miles Christi booth attends the same bible study that I do. She told me that I shouldn't let anything stop me from participating in the retreat and that they have scholarships available. This did not make me feel better. I know if I didn't let money leak out of the budget for goofy things, I could muster the money for the retreat.

But, more importantly, what is the "well-proven method of St. Ignatius of Loyola?" The Miles Christi priest at the booth got my address and sent me a small packet of information, but it doesn't explain anything about "the method." I know the late Fr. John Hardon, SJ, and Archbishop Burke supported these exercises, but what are they?

For Father's Day, my husband wanted to go to the bookstore. Going to the bookstore for him is similar to other men enjoying a beer. He loves bookstores. Usually, he likes to visit Barnes and Noble, but for some reason he wanted to go to Half Price books. Although it was Father's Day, hubby didn't find anything, but I managed to find a arm-load of books for under $20. They include a hard cover book, similar to Usborne, called Inside Ancient Athens; Anne of Green Gables; Anne of Avonlea; Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm; Pascal's Pensees (since I didn't get to hear much about Pascal at the Chesterton conference); St. John - The Navarre Bible commentary; Making Senses Out of Scripture - Reading the Bible as the First Christians Did, by Mark Shea; and The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Serendipity, indeed.

The book explains how the exercises are to take place over four weeks. I don't know how the retreat will condense this into a weekend, but now that I have a little background on what to expect, I'm eager to go. I only read the exercises for the first week because it warns against moving too far ahead. The first week consists of an in-depth examination of conscience. A little voice in the back of my head will have me pondering my sins until the conference takes place in September.

This expression "Spiritual Exercises" embraces every method of examination of conscience, of meditation, of contemplation of vocal and mental prayer, and of other spiritual activity that will be mentioned later. For just as strolling, walking, and running are bodily exercises, so spiritual exercises are methods of preparing and disposing the soul to free itself of all inordinate attachments, and after accomplishing this, of seeking and discovering the Divine Will regarding the disposition of one's life, thus insuring the salvation of his soul.

* Link for more information on the Miles Christi priests and brothers and for information on the retreats offered. If you've attended one of these retreats, please let me know your experiences!


ArchAngel's Advocate said...

I recommend you wait until the retreat before beginning. The Exercises are a balanced reflection, and to take a "Week" out of sequence is asking for trouble. Instead, meditate on the Principle & Foundation (the 2 paragraphs that begin "Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul"). Take it from one who has done the exercises often (and needs a refresher course. (One of my dreams is to take the full 4 "week" retreat someday.

swissmiss said...

Thanks for the advice AA. I had only read the first week and stopped. Found the Principles and Foundations that you mention (p. 47 in my book - Doubleday/Image, 1964) and will stick with them.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Swissy: I'm intrigued. Keep us posted. If you go I'd be interested in hearing about it.

Adrienne said...

I did the SEEL (Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life) at Gonzaga U. It takes close to a year. You meet with your spiritual advisor every week and once per month the entire group meets.

You might poke around and see if they have a SEEL program in your area.

A did a weekend retreat (based on the exercises) and found it to be too much informaiton in too short of a time.

swissmiss said...

I vaguely recall hearing of SEEL, but haven't heard it mentioned around here. Will look into it though. I would like something like this, a good spiritual director and a plan, but with the kids being so little, a weekend away is all I can muster. Plus, I don't know if this is verboten, but I have a few specific areas I would like to address in my spiritual life...don't know if I'm supposed to go to the retreat without any preconceptions, but I do have some ideas of my own...chances are God has His own ideas of what I should work on, just maybe we'll be on the same page :) If the weekend is too much, at least I'm getting a feel for the waters.

ArchAngel's Advocate said...

"...don't know if I'm supposed to go to the retreat without any preconceptions"
You shouldn't go with preconceptions, but anticipations, asperations, questions, etc. are OK. Remember that a good attitude to have on retreat is "shut up, it's God's turn to speak."

swissmiss said...

I was saying that tongue in cheek :) I do have aspirations and anticipations, I just hope they align with God's plan when He speaks. At least He won't be competing with the kids for attention...and I'll just have to "let go and let God."

Do you know if the priests provide one-on-one spiritual direction, or is it group instruction?

ArchAngel's Advocate said...

The one's I've gone on (By some good ol' SJs) were a mixture of both. Surprisingly the longer the retreat the more time for individual direction. I'm not familiar with the Miles Christi folks, but if they're offering Confession on a daily basis I suspect there's some individual guidance. Also from their website it appears that these are given by teams which makes the chance for indivual interaction very good.

Lisa said...

I have made a silent retreat on the spiritual exercises too-4 full days. It was very challenging and unlike anything I've ever done. I loved it and would highly recommend you going, Swiss! Let us know what you decide...

sexy said...
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