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Lent: A time to retreat

Perhaps the idea of a retreat during Lent sounds intriguing and even tempting.  You may be wondering though: Who are these retreats for, what will I be likely to get out of it and which of the many different kinds of retreats on offer would suit me best?

These days retreats are for anyone who takes their relationship with God seriously, and equally for people who are struggling with faith but seriously seeking after something more. It is, in some senses, like a holiday with God.  For most of us, it is a rare and wonderful opportunity to spend sustained quality time with God and to be deeply refreshed and re-inspired through that encounter.

There are an infinite variety of retreats, so the trick is to find the one that best suits your needs. Some retreats involve going away for a time to stay at a retreat centre.  These residential retreats are made in beautiful surroundings which facilitate reflection. Usually these retreats are made in silence to give you the inner space to sense what God may be trying to say to you. Silence which includes not using cell phones, TV or other technology can be quite unfamiliar and you may wonder what that will be like. Most people find it a huge relief to be able to just switch off from the external demands for a while.  It’s good to start with a weekend and as you get into the silence you may be drawn into wanting to try a four or eight-day retreat. Weekend retreats are generally “preached.” This means that there will be some input from the retreat leader usually based on a theme and plenty of time for you to ponder and pray about what you have heard. Longer retreats are often individually guided. This means that you meet each day one on one with the retreat director and are given guidance and material to pray with that is based on your particular needs. For both weekend and longer Jesuit Institute retreats, there is Mass each day and it is good to feel the support of others in the group who are also on a spiritual journey.

If it is impossible for you to go away for a retreat because of the demands of young children or work commitments you can also make a “retreat in everyday life.” These are usually offered in parishes or schools. You continue your daily activities but, during the week of the retreat, spend some extra time in prayer and come to meet with a prayer guide each day who will give you suggestions for your prayer. This is a great way to discover God at work in your everyday life. There are also retreats like this offered in a group format.

Lent is traditionally the time when we really take stock of our relationship with God. You might like to consider trying out a retreat this Lent and taking that relationship to a deeper level.  It may be the best investment of time and money you make all year.

March Weekend Retreat: Weekend of 13th March. Retreat Giver: Fr Russell Pollitt SJ at Padre Pio in Rietfontein. For a list of our residential retreats see our website www.jesuitinstitute.org.za and contact Margaret m.backwell@jesuitinstitute.org.za  for an application form.

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell
MEd (Wits); MA Christian Spirituality (London); PhD (UKZN)

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell has worked in the area of Ignatian Spirituality for 19 years and heads up the work of the Jesuit Institute School of Spirituality. Her primary focus is the training and supervision of spiritual directors and the giving of retreats. She is also a registered Psychologist and her PhD focused on the interface between Christian Spirituality and Psychology. Annemarie is an editorial advisor to “The Way” journal of Spirituality and has authored a number of articles relating to the training of Spiritual Directors in an African context. She has contributed to several books, most recently co-authoring a book of Lenten Reflections: “Long Journey to the Resurrection”. She has contributed to international conferences and consultations in Spirituality in the United Kingdom; the United States; Rome; Spain, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

a.paulin-campbell@jesuitinstitute.org.za @annemariepc_c
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