A Lenten mini-retreat


Purification of Memories

 The retreat will consist of a series of six short reflections (ten minutes tops), a suggested practice for the day, and suggestions on how to end the day. It will not be live-streamed, so if, when, and how you do this retreat is completely up to you.

            The focus of this lent’s retreat is “The Stories that Make Us.” The “stories” we’ll be focusing on are those narratives often running in the background of our lives that affect how we see ourselves, relate to others, and relate to God.

Why a “mini-retreat”?

Many of us might prefer a retreat where we physically get away to some place where we can concentrate fully on “spiritual matters”; a time to leave behind all the cares and responsibilities of our daily life. Such times can be quite refreshing spiritually, and psychologically. But often it is just not possible for us to drop everything and go on retreat. Jobs, families, time constraints, financial concerns, even our physical condition can make such a retreat difficult, if not impossible. A mini-retreat is one we can incorporate into our daily life. It is designed not to fill the hours of the day, but to create an atmosphere whereby we can more consciously acknowledge and experience God’s presence in our daily activities.

What’s involved?

A short talk (about ten minutes) will introduce the focus for the day. Also I will include a suggested practice that you may wish to incorporate into your day, and some guidelines and a prayer with which you may wish to end your day. Close with a short examen and prayer at the end of the day. Beginning and ending the day, and the week, in this manner helps to make the entire time sacred. Remember, it’s not about taking a lot of time on the work of the retreat, but rather setting a tone where the sacred can more easily be seen as permeating our daily life.

Other suggestions for the retreat

Permeate the day with prayer. Take time to sit quietly and meditate. Prayer is essentially about being present to the One who is always present to us. Short vocal prayers throughout the day can be helpful reminders of God’s presence: “Thank you for this morning, this breakfast, this house, this pet, this spouse. Forgive me. Give me patience.” Say a quick prayer for someone in need, or when you hear a siren, listen to troubling news, walk through a door, or wait in line at the grocery store!

            Fast from media. Increasingly we have become slaves to electronic devices. We feel we must respond immediately to every email, text, ping, or notification that comes in. Perhaps during this week you may wish to set aside one time in the day to deal with incoming messages, read the news, check social media, and then forget about these the rest of the day. Who knew that turning off dings, pings, and other notifications could be a spiritual practice!  It’s a way of saying “I control my life, not my cell phone!”

            Break the pattern of your day. Take two minutes to go out and look at the stars. Drive to work a different way. Eat something different for breakfast. Little actions like this remind us that we are not robots; that we have the capacity to live each day consciously and deliberately.

            Don’t overdo it! Remember, this retreat is not about adding more things to your already busy day. It’s about trying in our daily activities to be mindfully present of God’s presence. Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection said he was as much in the presence of God while washing his pots and pans as in the chapel. That’s our goal; not to stop our daily activities, but to recognize God’s presence in them.

Blessings on a fruitful “mini-retreat”!

Fr. Eric

The Stories that Make Us

Day 1: Introduction to the retreat

At the beginning of the day:

            Offer a short prayer of thanksgiving for the day.  Then I suggest you listen to the attached talk first and familiarize yourself with the suggested practice.

Throughout the day:

As time permits, reflect briefly on your life. Do you see common threads? A story line that runs throughout? Are there some narratives that pop up in your mind that you find helpful? Or hurtful? (We’ll be dealing more specifically with these this week.) Pay attention to strong emotions—“triggers”—they are often indications of a story running in the background of which we may not be aware.

            Practice conscious awareness of God’s loving presence throughout the day by using short vocal prayers (see suggestions from the introductory email). Cues can be helpful; I was once given a penance of saying “Thank you God” every time I walked through a doorway! These don’t make God more present to us, but they do make us more present to God.

At the end of the day:

If you have a spiritual practice with which you end the day, and it’s working for you, don’t change it. If not, I’d suggest taking just a few minutes before bed to review the day. Give thanks for the day. Ask forgiveness for whatever you may you need it for. Don’t judge yourself too harshly: God doesn’t. Ask to be freed of anything you may be carrying as a burden from the day. Give it to God for the night. Finally, this prayer from the Psalm 63 may be helpful; I find it so.

“On my bed I remember You;

On you I muse through the night

For you have been my help;

In the shadow of your wings I rejoice.

My soul clings to you;

Your right hand holds me fast.”

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