IGNATIAN SILENT RETREAT
Image: Rex and the van
So, it’s raining. And windy. The pub on the beach is closed. The dog doesn’t really like being in the van. And this week I’m on a silent(ish) (virtual) retreat with a Jesuit community.BUY THIS IS THAT
Weirdly, the main thing needed on this retreat from the world is some kind of internet signal. Usually this would be the first thing to dispense with, but because the spiritual director who is guiding me is in South Africa it's actually really necessary.
I am joined by Rex the cockerpoo who was also keen to begin his second year deep in contemplation and equipped more readily to reflect on his own existence. Unfortunately, he began the week stressed because he is naturally suspicious of old motorhomes and the fact there’s not much room in them for play. And also we couldn’t find a signal at campsite number one so tried to drive up to higher ground, but the mud meant that there was a fair amount of wheel spinning and sliding, and the dog could feel the anxiety of the Fiat engine as it aspired and almost expired in its attempts.
So, we found a new site just in time for the first session on Zoom. Rex was sleeping off the combination of a rain and sea-soaked walk along with the rally/hill climb competition he felt he had experienced, which left me to still myself and begin the process.
Which is summed up, really, in the phrase: “to choose what better leads to God’s deepening life in me.”
Which is what I would really like. Because I know that God’s Spirit being deeper in me is the best thing for me and those around me.
The Ignatian way is to become more aware of God’s purpose in sharing his life with us forever, as we engage in the stuff of life and creation in such a way that we know God more easily and return his love more readily. I’m thinking then about the times when I have known God close by and the times when I have felt him far away. These are times over the last years as well as the times over the last few hours. And I am hoping to find fresh ways to know God’s presence and to be aware of the most subtle of flutters, nuances, hints and traces of His Spirit at work in the world around me and in my heart within me.
Thinking about today, I was pleased to stumble across a small butcher’s/general stores and although there was no goats cheese, I bought some very thick bacon, some Welsh cakes and bara brith. I stuffed them in my wet pockets, feeling like Edmund from Narnia with a whole lot of Turkish Delight about his person. But instead of this being like the temptation of the Narnian Witch, it felt much more like a childhood adventure of secret feasts and lashings of lemonade.
Thinking about some of the last years, I reflected on people who are now good friends who have discovered the delight of experiencing the Kingdom of heaven in life changing and exciting ways; and whole groups of brothers and sisters in Christ worshipping, working and wondering in the Holy Spirit, at church, on mission, in creative endeavours and away together for special days, weeks and weekends.
Remembering the presence and faithfulness of Jesus in both the big and the small then helps us to focus our present attention on where he might be working now and what expression of faith and life he is drawing us towards. And the thankfulness and humility of such reflection means we are much more likely to say Yes to wherever he leads us.
Here is a prayer of St Ignatius:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
Martin J Young (and Rex)