The goal in all the retreats I lead is to join with others in practicing joy—to join with others in reflecting on the joy that is present in all of our lives, the joy that as Christians we believe is the authentic sign of the presence of Christ, risen in all of us.
In all of the the retreats I facilitate, to paraphrase Parker Palmer, I try to “create a space” in which “the community of truth can be practiced.” The people who come to a retreat bring the retreat with them—in their wisdom and insight and anxiety and concern. My role is to give those people the silence and the structure they need to listen to their lives and to what is moving within them, and so to listen to God.
SAMPLE RETREAT TOPICS
We’re all so busy, and distracted, and skeptical, it’s hard to recognize and remember our
fleeting moments of joy. Using the Ignatian prayer technique known as the examen, I help
retreatants explore their own experience and to trust in these moments—because it’s in them,
and through them, that God is always calling us.
MOVING FROM THE HEAD TO THE HEART
We are all too much in our heads, especially those of who have gone to college. Science is what is valued, and analysis, and doubt. But there’s value, too, in what we feel and intuit, in what we can’t put into words, in what we don’t control and can’t control, and in this retreat, using scripture and poetry and journal prompts, I help retreatants discover the mystery that’s really inside of them.
NATURE AND THE CALL TO HOLINESS
It’s often assumed that Christianity and nature are somehow opposed–that God can only be found in a Church. But in fact scripture is full of references to nature as a revelation of the Spirit and to wilderness as the place of encounter with God, and in this retreat, using selected passages from both the Old and New Testament, as well as journal prompts and small group retreat, I help the people who come to the retreat to make contact with what is splendid and wild, in them and all around them.
LISTENING: HEARING GOD IN THE SILENCE
A good therapist or minister or friend knows that the best thing to do when a friend is in trouble is to listen. Not to say anything, but to be present, with understanding and love. What if this is true of God, too? What if the silence of God–this sense we have that God isn’t answering our prayers–is really the silence of God’s listening to us with love? In this retreat, I encourage retreatants to enter more deeply into silence, and to hear the still small voice that is always calling us home.
In the retreats I facilitate, I invite people to write quickly and without editing in response to scripture and poetry and short passages from theologians and other writers, and then, at the end, to look back on what they’ve written and see what patterns and connections emerge. I ask for silence between sessions, and within each session ask participants to share only what they are inspired to share—and always to respect what others say, to listen without judgment or argument. The retreats I facilitate are true to Catholic teaching and grounded in the Christian tradition, and at the same time they are open to people of all faiths and varieties of doubt, respecting questions and different points of view.
An excerpt from my Bible As Literature class:
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