Yay, It is Retreat Time

I leave tomorrow morning for my annual retreat. After a busy summer the included giving several retreats at various locations, and teaching course on St. Ignatius at a Presbyterian gathering, not to mention all the prep for various upcoming retreats and programs, I’m ready to have a week away to just be with God. This is the one time I don’t take my computer with me, and don’t deal with e-mails, texts or phone.

I say this every year either at the front end or back end of my retreat, but I can’t encourage enough trying to find an opportunity to make a retreat. Yes, we have our daily prayer practice, and that is of enormous benefit in itself. But there is nothing like going off to take uninterrupted time with God. I recognize it is harder for some people to get away than others, but for those that can do so, you won’t be sorry you did

As I go off, I ask you to keep my in prayer, that I may be open to whatever it is God wishes to reveal during this time. And be assured of my prayers for you as well.

Encountering Mary in Art, Poetry and Music

Today is the final day of a week long retreat I’ve been giving in Covington Kentucky to a group of Sisters of Notre Dame and several of their Associates. The theme was Encountering Mary. My talks over the course of the week considered various aspects of, and ways we relate to, Mary: as Mother of God, Our Lady of Sorrows, Mother of the Church, Prophet of Justice, to name several. Our evening activities included two films (Nativity Story and Song of Bernadette, the latter of which some of the sisters had not seen for several decades), an evening of Taize prayer, a prayer service on the Seven Sorrows of Mary, and a group rosary.

One of the days this week was devoted to encountering Mary in art, poetry and music. I had available multiple images of Mary, a packet of about fifteen Marian themed poems, and a playlist of Marian music that played throughout the day. After a talk in the morning about visio divina, audio divina and the use of poetry in prayer, the retreatants had most of the day to pray with Mary using one of more of these media.

One of the images that one of the sisters prayed with was the below picture of an aged Mary, that was part of my collection of images. We don’t often think of Mary in this way, but seeing her like this reminds us that her life continued after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and that she had many years to continue to “ponder” his presence in her life. And for those who are aging (like the sister who prayed with the image), it makes Mary a continuing model, beyond in the ways we tend to think of her.

Slow Me Down, Lord

We are all busy with so many things, and there never seems to be enough time to get everything done. And while I am looking forward to making my annual retreat later this month, we need to find ways to slow down even when we are not on retreat.

Many years ago I shared a prayer by Wilfred Arlan Peterson, titled Slow Me Down, Lord. While I have sometimes given it to retreatants as a welcome prayer at the beginning of a directed retreat to help them settle into the retreat, it is even more useful in the midst of the craziness of our everyday lives.  So I thought to share it again here:

Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.  Steady my hurried pace.  Give me, amidst the day’s confusion, the calmness of the everlasting hills.

Break the tension of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of singing streams that live in my memory.

Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep.  Teach me the art of taking “minute vacations”…slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to read a few lines from a good book.

Remind me of the fable of the hare and the tortoise; that the race is not always to the swift; that there is more to life than measuring the speed. 

Let me look up at the branches of the towering oak and know that it grew slowly and well.  Inspire me to send my own roots down deep into the soil of life’s endearing values…that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.

Slow me down, Lord.

May you take the prayer to heart! May we all do so!