A deacon’s view
Silent retreat opened path to deeper relationship with God
I recently attended an eight-day individually guided silent retreat at the Jesuit Spirituality Center in Milford, Ohio, about 20 miles east of Cincinnati on U.S. Route 50. It was a life-changing experience.
A typical day at this retreat consists of an optional morning prayer, usually a lectio divina or a guided meditation, a 45-minute reflection with a spiritual director and the Eucharist. In the evening there were optional activities such as journaling, clay modeling and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The rest of the time is to talk with God and explore the beautiful 37 acre Jesuit Spirituality Center campus. The Valley View Nature Preserve is across the road, and the Cincinnati Nature Center is about a ten-minute drive away.
There were 25 participants, although I heard at the end that they recently held a retreat with over 50. Although several were in their twenties or early thirties, most participants were in their sixties and up, including one Jesuit priest about to lead a retreat of high school students. About three quarters were women, most in orders. There was another priest and a seminarian. People came from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, and one from Mexico. The experienced spiritual directors were two Jesuits, two nuns and two lay people; three were women and three were men. My director was an Ursuline sister. I was the only one who was not a Roman Catholic.
I was included and accepted in the daily Eucharist, which was always a joyful, positive experience. The priests and the spiritual directors preached and led morning prayer. The music was beautiful.
The retreat format nudges participants into a deeper relationship with God. The silence kept us from getting to know one another, so we were left with no one to talk with for most of the day but God. For the retreat to work, participants must trust their spiritual directors enough to disclose their concerns and accept their suggestions. This requires us to open ourselves to what God may be saying through another person; it is not a negotiation. It took me two days to really get into the rhythm of the retreat, and then I learned a new way of talking with God about my own concerns and the people I love. The rest of the week flew by.
The Spirituality Center offers an individually guided retreat each month from May through November. There is also a Contemplative Retreat in August. A $50 fee is payable at registration and a $500 fee is payable at the beginning of the retreat. The Jesuit Spirituality Center’s web site is at http://jesuitspiritualcenter.com/.
Our diocese has Professional Development grants available to help clergy defray the expense of attending a retreat. Contact Canon Anne Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org or Daryl Wilbur at email@example.com if you are interested in obtaining a grant.
Fred McGavran was ordained a deacon in 2010. He serves as Assistant Chaplain at Episcopal Retirement Homes.