Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spa Week at Wernersville . . . Not!

So here's what I did on retreat:

I walked 3-4 miles every day.  Unfortunately, the retreat center sits atop a hill, so every walk, no matter the route, proceeds down and then returns up.   

I sat in the Adirondack chairs in the sun as much as possible.

I cut out pictures and made collages, and colored in lots of Celtic patterns ~ a methodically and rhythmically prayerful way of spending time.  (I have been so very, very sick of words of late, and so I took a huge bag of art supplies with me.)

I went to daily mass. Since I was there during a "nonofficial" retreat time, there were only a few people at the liturgy each morning. Once I looked around and thought, Hmm, six Jesuits and me.  Interesting crowd.  (And then a few staff members showed up.)

I got to meet George Aschenbrenner, S.J.  "You're the guy who taught us all to pray the examen!" I exclaimed, when I stopped him in the hallway to introduce myself.  "Well, the Holy Spirit had something to do with that," he responded.  I told him that I am a Presbyterian pastor and an Ignatian spiritual director.  "There seem to be more and more of those," he reflected.

I met with my spiritual director every day, and pondered and wondered and prayed with the observations he made.  Those are the times when it becomes most apparent that a silent retreat is not for the faint-of-heart, or for those dreaming of a relaxing spa day.  (In the summertime, I often sit in the Adirondack chairs in the afternoon sun and paint my toenails, but even then: tough stuff going on.)

I did follow the Boston Marathon case to some extent.  More than I should have ( iPhones represent a terrible temptation), but far, far less than I would have had I been home.

I was struck, as our small group gathered for mass the day after the marathon, by the awesome faithfulness of quiet Christian witness: a few people who considered that the most important thing they could do in the face of mind-bending violence and horror would be to spend half an hour celebrating a liturgy.

More on the week-end retreat-within-a-retreat later.



  1. I agree that silent retreats are not for the faint of heart but those challenges that present themselves become opportunities for growth. I have discovered that through experience. I pray that your time on retreat was a blessing.

  2. Thanks, ladies. It was an excellent retreat, but I've been grateful for a day of recovery time!

  3. It was a joy to see you, it was brief but am glad you have the day to catch your breath. 70 people at breakfast this morning, all talking!!