“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46). How many of us can say we set aside a significant amount of time each day to pray? Probably not too many, and the reasons people say they have no time to pray are, well, reasonable, at least to some people. Some might include: not enough hours in the day to finish the work that needs to be done; too many important commitments; and the list continues.
If someone proposed going on a 30-day retreat, the gasps would surely be audible. Who could take that much time away from family, from work, from life?
Actually, if the retreat were broken into smaller periods of time and spread over eight or nine months, far more people would see that as doable. In fact, created as the “Bridges Retreat,” people in the St. Louis region have been doing just that — inviting people to consider committing to a retreat to learn and practice the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus in 1534.
“The Bridges Foundation offers the Spiritual Exercises each year at various sites throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area,” according to information from the foundation.
A Bridges Retreat is being organized in the diocese at St. Nicholas Parish in O’Fallon. A recent gathering at St. Nicholas brought together people who have completed the retreat and those who are inquiring about a new group forming this fall.
Cindy Mackey, leader, site coordinator and prayer partner invited people to share their experiences at previous retreats and offered information about the upcoming retreat this fall. St. Nicholas has been designated as one of the sites in the area where retreatants will meet.
Some of the comments of those who have already participated in a retreat were: “It touches you; you will never be the same”; “it helps me maintain a life of prayer”; and “Ignatian Spirituality encourages me to be free.”
Mackey said people are drawn to the program for two reasons: “They want a deeper relationship with God, or they could be discerning something,” trying to determine God’s plan for them through the exercises.
Theresa Sanders completed the retreat this spring, and said: “I’ve been searching for years to deepen my relationship with God,” and the retreat provided that frame of reference that she needed.
One man at the meeting said he wanted to find “more ways to pray; I need to keep growing and learning.”
By spreading the time over about nine months, “it becomes a retreat in everyday life.”
Retreatants meet for discussions, receive direction and encouragement, establish a connection with someone who will accompany them as a “prayer companion,” and offer information that is used for daily prayer.
The retreat will begin in mid-September and meet on Wednesday evenings. Throughout the year, other activities will be added like a faith-sharing day, and two short retreats.
By making the retreat over an extended period of time, participants begin to lengthen the time they spend in contemplative prayer. It just happens.
Sanders said over the course of time she did deepen her relationship with God. “God is my friend, my confidant. It is powerful; now I think about being the person God wants me to become — you see things differently, feel things differently and see people differently.”
Mackey said the retreat offers opportunities to become more contemplative, to be more open to God and to enrich prayer life.
Although the Bridges Foundation has determined the cost of the eight-month retreat to be about $882, the foundation seeks grants and donations to defray the cost. People are asked to “pay whatever amount you can afford.”
Pope Francis, himself a Jesuit, has brought renewed interest to the retreats because his “own experiences of Spiritual Exercises is reflected in his words, actions and spirituality.”
For more information about the retreat, please contact Cindy Mackey at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 741-8075.