“Be still and know that I am God”, Psalm 46:10, invites us to be still and silent before the Lord. It calls us to rest in the presence of the Lord; to look at reality, stop our restlessness, and to recognise God for who He is, allowing Him to do what only He can do. At this time, when the whole world is at a stand-still, came an invitation in my inbox from the Educate Magis team to join the Virtual Live Retreat entitled, “On Earth as it is in Heaven”.
As a teacher at the Jesuit institution, St. Joseph’s School, North Point in Darjeeling, India this was an invitation I grabbed with both hands. Many a time had I pondered joining an Ignatian retreat but I guess the time for it had not come then. The Lord, I believe was leading me to this memorable experience.
The Retreat, over five consecutive days, from the 18th of May to the 22nd, took us through reflections on: “The First Principle and Foundation”, “Our Core Identity”, “The Call of the King”, “The Paschal Path” and “On Earth as it is in Heaven”, “The Art of the Exit” among other such insights and reflections. For me, who had attended very few face to face retreats, to do a virtual live retreat was an absolute novelty. I am certain; it was nothing short of a miracle. There was I, each evening, connecting through a link on my computer to the global community. I could watch and listen to the directors of the retreat, the profoundly knowledgeable and humane, Fr Casey and Fr. Pat, in real time, delivering their content sessions replete with apt illustrations for us to ponder and pray over. Then, there was the extraordinary experience of a few of us being grouped automatically into breakout rooms, where, in smaller, more intimate discussion , we were encouraged to share our thoughts, reflections , feelings and desires that had been prompted by the content session. We were privileged to tap into a vast array of experience that spanned the geographical locations of each participant and threw up testimony of the Spirit at work in our educational apostolate. This was a reassuring and consoling conversation helping us see with ‘the eyes of the heart and to listen with the ears of the heart’ to stories that found echoes and parallels in each of our unique contexts that somehow coalesced into our common mission and identity as persons and institutions. We witnessed ‘glimpses of Heaven’. We felt we were called in shared community to the Mission of building “On Earth as it is in Heaven”.
The enormity of the first principle and foundation of Ignatian Spirituality and my core identity came home to me, it staggered me; the more I dwelt upon its significance. If as a teacher, “we teach who we are” then we must be imparting to our students the qualities that make us sons and daughters of God ….. We are to become then, alto-Christs, as St Teresa of Avila asserts. I guess I shall think twice about the identity of my students and all whom I come in contact with in a more compassionate, forgiving and accepting manner.
The retreat was superbly organized by the Educate Magis team. Apart from the live sessions, the retreat material was accessible to all the participants on a dedicated web page created for this event. Also, each session was recorded and the recordings are available to be watched over and again. For those of us who were unable to present our queries during the live session, we could send in our questions or share thoughts by joining in an on-line conversation. I must thank and congratulate our directors Fr Casey Beaumier SJ and Fr. Patrick Nolan SJ, Ms. Ciara Beuster and the Educate Magis team and all the participants for their generosity and open sharing. It has been an outpouring of Grace for me and by far one of the best things I have experienced from the perspective of personal enrichment as an Ignatian educator. It has deepened my faith and understanding of who I am, and to value more the vocation that we all share. This retreat ranks easily as the best thing the Spirit has led me to do during this period of lockdown and stillness. It has given me reason to hope because it reassured us that ‘all journeys end in Easter’.
In stillness came the blessings.