Tilling the soil
Imagine for a moment stepping away from your busy life for a few days, maybe a weekend. Imagine not worrying about family, meals, laundry and household tasks. Imagine walking in the country or along a lake, seeing birds floating in the sky and breathing fresh, crisp air. Imagine having your religious imagination broken open to allow you to converse with God, Jesus, Mary or a saint. And, then, imagine writing about it — or writing a letter to one of them or writing a letter from one of them to you.
Imagine having honest and open conversations about your life and spiritual journey with someone who listens intently and supports you. This describes at least one type of retreat.
Every year the Faber Center for Ignatian Spirituality invites Marquette faculty and staff of every faith to a weekend silent retreat at the Jesuit Retreat House near Oshkosh, Wis. The 60 or more folks who attend are treated to inspiring and stimulating talks, a lot of silence, conversations with spiritual guides and directors, good food, and the opportunity to stroll through the beautiful landscape on the Lake Winnebago shoreline. (I am a sucker for the huge wooden swings that look out on the waves). Stepping away from the frantic pace of our lives and taking the time to embrace centeredness and focus or just relax in the Lord’s presence is amazingly rejuvenating and healing.
Throughout the history of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits have engaged in retreat ministry. It was one of St. Ignatius’ desires to “have conversations about God with people.” A retreat setting provides a perfect venue for those conversations. The work of the retreat is really God’s work in our hearts and souls. Many of us need quiet to listen to the inner voice speak of choices, discernment, new directions, transformations and affirmation. Often it is the words of a spiritual director or guide that finally break through to allow us to hear the most important messages: God loves you. God cares about you. God’s forgiveness comes unattached and free. I bet God was crying with you.
Sometimes these messages fall on the rocky ground of our busy lives. If the opportunity appears to take part in a retreat — whether it is your first time or your 20th time — take it. God is eager to have a deep conversation with you.
Dr. Susan Mountin, Jour ’71, Grad ’94, director of Manresa for Faculty, helps us till the soil of faith in a quarterly column on Ignatian values.