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Times of retreat are essential elements in the rhythm of our life. They enable us to celebrate the primacy of the love of God above all else. Whenever we enter retreat we seek to be more available to God so that we may enter more fully into the divine life. The community shall have one week of retreat together every year under the direction of a retreat leader. The experience of shared silence and prayer deepens our solidarity in the Spirit and unites us in a common response to the living word. In addition each professed brother shall have a week of individual retreat every year.
The arrangements about the time and place of this retreat will be made in consultation with the Superior. In each quarter of the year there will be a day of corporate retreat, fasting and intercession. Each brother will have an individual day of retreat every month in which there is no time of community retreat.
Brothers who feel confident of God’s call to go forward in the Society will use their retreat before clothing or making their vows to deepen their self-offering to God. If a brother needs further confirmation of his call, the focus of the retreat will be on the discernment of God’s will.
Retreat is an opportunity to experience the intimacy we have with God through our union with Christ. Our availability to God will normally be expressed by setting aside three periods for prayer each day, and leaving all distracting tasks. We seek an inner silence for communion with God and therefore refrain from conversation. Exercise and gentle recreative activities in solitude will help us be open to the Spirit.
Retreats will often be times in which we hear Jesus inviting us to be at rest with him: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” But we must expect retreats to expose us to spiritual trial. We may be tempted to tire ourselves or waste the time in busy work and preparation. We may find ourselves staying on the surface to avoid an authentic meeting with the living God. And the emptiness of retreat time may compel us to face the painful signs of our need for healing that it was easier to overlook during our usual routines. So our retreat times will be opportunities to strive against everything that would discourage us from radical dependence on the love of God.
Those of us who guide the retreats of others should be creative in their own use of retreat and guard against mere routine. Our own experience must be real and vital if we are to draw on it when we guide those who are seeking God.
In the fall of 1994 when I first came to Boston and was feeling overwhelmed by my internship tasks and alone, my former rector in California recommended that I go on retreat at Emery House. He financed that weekend. The retreat was just what I needed. The introduction to SSJE paved the way for later attendance and participation at the monastery. My rector’s experience attending a Jesuit retreat center in Ontario for many years must have been so real and vital that it led him to guide me in this profound way. May I share my experience similarly.