I was looking for something. Navigating personal and professional life in this time of uncertainty left me seeking guidance, answers, and solutions. Muted and with my video off, I paid attention but continued to check e-mails and be “productive” while the retreat began. Convincing myself there was simply too much to do, I navigated this way for a time. I didn’t get involved until I allowed myself to focus on Fr. Casey, Fr. Pat and the faces that filled my screen – people from all over the world, people who spoke with purpose, care, and joy.
I slowly began to realize we were on a retreat, a pilgrimage even. Each bringing a unique context, we were on a journey, together. I sat in awe of how attentive people were, I witnessed what it meant to connect. Before this experience, I had given into the screen fatigue narrative as the reason why it was tough to experience connection. I’ve complained about a video call just not being the same. Fr. Casey reminded us – this time of isolation is “great territory for the bad spirit to make us feel isolated in a way that is hurtful” and that it is tempting to spend time focusing on limits, difficulties, or past mistakes. Watching how my friends were all interacting and growing in their love of God inspired me to be more engaged and open to a new reality.
The topic that drew me in completely was, “how to leave in a beautiful way” and because I was in my first year teaching an Ignatian Spirituality course with a group of our senior class, one that ended on the last day of the retreat, I was hooked. In the small groups, with friends from the Philippines, Tanzania, India, and the United States, we discussed the cancellation of end of year events, including capstone retreats. We wrestled with emotions including disappointment and confusion, but also hope and love. The retreat was designed to conclude on the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, and because this was also our last day of class, I was able to immediately share the fruits from the retreat. That day the Ignatian Spirituality class left in a beautiful way. This was “a glimpse of the Kingdom” and I will store up this consolation and hold it with me.
So, what now? As I reflect on this experience and evaluate the impact it has had on me, I return to Fr. Pat and Fr. Casey mentioning Luke 11:1-13 when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. The disciples looked to their teacher, someone who proceeded prayerfully and with radical love, and they wanted what he had. This helped clarify my way forward – it’s all about relationships. The best way I can cultivate these relationships in my life is through the attention to the one I have with Jesus. This earthly experience served as a model for what it should look like – filled with storytelling, listening, dreaming, and planning for a future where all are reminded of our core identity. When I make this time, I allow myself to hear the call of Jesus who, as Fr. Pat described, shares with us an inviting whisper to join him.
In the end, I realized I was looking for something – guidance, answers, and solutions – and I found those and so much more. I found a “community of friends in the Lord” as Ignatius wanted the Jesuits to be. Will screen fatigue remain a reality? Yes, but I left each meeting invigorated and know the reason for this. Are virtual retreats the same as being in-person? No, but now I know it’s the evil spirit that’s showing me the limitations. When I stop and focus on the light of Christ, His presence in our current reality shines. Because of the efforts by Ciara Beuster and the Educate Magis team in collaboration with Fr. Casey Beaumier, S.J. and Fr. Patrick Nolan, S.J., we were able to come together – as disciples, Ignatian educators, students, and ultimately as pilgrims on the way to God – a glimpse of the Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.