26 November 2008

What I Did on my Silent, Ignatian Retreat

In speaking to people 'In Real Life' recently, I've realised that there is some curiosity as to what goes on during a silent retreat. and even some puzzlement as to why anyone should want to do such a thing.

So I thought I would post here a bit about 'What I did on my silent retreat'.

There are many different places around the country that give silent retreats but I went to
Loyola Hall Jesuit Spirituality Centre in Rainhill near Liverpool.

I arrived at about 4:00 pm on Monday and was greeted by three staff members and then shown to my room. I was told that Mass would be celebrated at 6:00 pm if I wanted to attend and that dinner would be at 6:45 pm. (None of the activities are compulsory) At dinner, I met the people in my group and, as we were still allowed to talk at this stage, we were able to chat and get to know each other.

At 8:00 pm we met with the two women who would be our 'Prayer Companions' and we were each assigned to a Prayer Companion as well as given a few housekeeping notices as to what would happen when. A few bible passages were suggested for us to choose to meditate upon and the silence began.

The basic pattern of my week was:

1) Meditate on a bible story. I tend to use either
Ignatian prayer or Lectio Divina mainly because these ways of 'praying the bible' work well for me.
2) Listen to God in prayer in order to hear and discern where he is leading me.
3) Share the above with my Prayer Companion and agree on the next bible passage, if any.
4) Spend the day in prayer and quiet and attend the daily Mass (service of Holy Communion)

So, did I spend 16 hours a day on my knees praying? No. Although I did spend several hours praying in either 1-hour or 30-minute chunks. Loyola House has quite a number of different rooms and chapels specifically designed for prayer and there are also extensive grounds for walking. I also walked around Rainhall as well as the Loyola grounds. A lot of my listening to God takes place whilst walking. Did I mention that one is not supposed to read during a silent retreat, either? The silence is actually a way of tuning in to your own mind as well as to what God might have to say.

Silent prayer is not supposed to be about contemplating your navel, either. Ignatian prayer is supposed to have what is termed 'an apostolic mission': i.e. the pray-er is meant to discern what God wants them to do as a Christian disciple.  

One last thing. I expect that this way of praying is not for everyone nor is a silent retreat for everyone. God made us all differently and we don't all have to pray in one manner any more than we all have to worship in one manner. One of the most important tenets of prayer is 'Pray as you can, not as you can't'.

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