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Are you in Shape – Spiritual Exercises

February 28, 2007

Chers Amis,carmel

I’m back from my wonderful retreat, so refreshed and renewed. It is as if a lifetime of cares were blown away and my energies refocused on what it truly important in this life and the next. I feel invigorated and exhausted at the same time by the spiritual workout.  The retreat was held at the Carmel Retreat Center in Northeast Georgia off I 85.  The retreat center is on a gorgeous piece of property. When it was warm during the day we cracked the windows in the chapel and the birdsong flooded the room and Sunday morning a thunderstorm rolled
through, lashing the windows during the meditation on the passion. Perfect! I have a hard time imagining an unearthly, celestial Heaven, but a glorious day at Carmel with Eastern Bluebirds flitting through the trees, the sun warm on my shoulders and echoing strains of Tantum Ergo from morning Benediction and Mass bring it beautifully to life.

Whew! there is also the burn! Spiritual Exercises are exactly that exercise – calisthenics for the soul with the help of the  Divine personal trainer and several very holy assistants in a oasis of silence. Yes, it was a silent retreat. Forty-eight women can be perfectly quiet for three days. That alone is a miracle! You quickly realize how much of our chit chat is empty and how liberating it is not to have to make conversation, to shift from deep thought to the weather every hour. Silence is golden in this setting. I wish I could implement it at home some days. . .

If you have never been on spiritual exercises modeled after those of  St. Ignatius, I highly recommend trying it. In the Atlanta area there are frequent opportunities for retreats offered by a wide variety of groups. Some silent and meditative, some for healing, others for discernment of a religious vocation – or even ecumenical programs for people of all faiths. A retreat allows you to pull away from the world and your everyday responsibility to listen and think.  Even a half day retreat at your parish is useful, but the best IMHO allow you time to let go of your worries.  As moms that takes at least a full day. Friday night -Sunday is a good start.

Here is a little taste of what each day on my retreat entailed:

7 o’clock Morning Offering in the Chapel followed by a personal meditation on points provided by Fr. the previous night followed by 7:30 Mass and breakfast (delicious!!! – all the meals were fabulous.)

The day included a series of guided meditations by  Fr. Paul, based on a Bible passage, usually the gospel, sometimes a Psalm or Old Testament. Guided means that the priest brings the scene to life, helping you to really put yourself in that passage, pointing out what it means and giving points for personal reflection. It is a bit like an excellent homily plus a conversation starter with God that challenges you to use all your faculties to think, examine,and listen to what God is saying to you about your life or a particular issue/problem. The meditation is followed by time for reflection and real dialog with Christ.  In between the meditations is free time for prayer/reflection/spiritual reading, preparation for confession or spiritual direction.  For this, we could stay in the chapel or return to our rooms, find a comfortable chair in the common areas, wander the grounds in the sunshine, or sit on the front or back porches.  There was plenty of space and total silence – except for the birds and three babies – nursing babies are always welcome. They have baby monitors and private rooms for the moms.

The day is also punctuated with prayer including: the Angelus (in Chapel), outdoor Way of the Cross, the rosary, prayers before and after  meals (grace), and night prayers.  At least one evening there is Exposition with a meditation and Eucharistic Adoration for Vocations as a group followed by personal nocturnal adoration (not mandatory) and Benediction the following morning before Mass.

Interspersed during the days was time for confession and  personal spiritual direction as well as two practical talks on prayer, how to put together a personal program (optional) and the mass (new).  One of the many goasl of the weekend is to enter into dialog with Christ, to see what is pulling you away from a deeper faith life,  identify  virtue that will help you combat your greatest problem area and come up with about 6 specific, concrete things you can do  based on that virtue.  No kumbaya.  No campfire.  No spa services. Warning: it is exhausting, but so worth it.

— Marjorie

PS – If anyone in the Georgia, North or South Carolina area is interested, the coming dates for a similar retreat are: April 13-15, 2007 and June 22-24, 2007 – retreats@bellsouth.net.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 1, 2007 12:02 pm

    Welcome home! I will be going at the end of the month. I am soooo looking forward to it.

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