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St. Ignatius speaks about storing up consolation for the future and this recent Global Virtual Retreat has certainly strengthened this sense of consolation, helping us to fill our cups, while we all share this sense of anticipation of returning to our apostolates, to our schools.  Jesuit educators Fr. Casey Beaumier of Boston College and Fr. Patrick Nolan of Boston College High School introduced or reminded many of us of the depth and richness of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola in a magnificently creative way, leaving us wanting more. The participants returned day after day and joined as time permitted to be part of this four-day spiritual journey. The retreatants came from all corners of the world; the USA, Colombia, Ireland, UK, Spain, Italy, Malta, Nigeria, Tanzania, India, Colombia, the Philippines, and other countries. Thank you for joining us on this retreat. Your presence and sharing made this a rich spiritual experience for all.

The retreat was titled “On Earth as it is in Heaven” as Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, composed his Spiritual Exercises as a way to help people grow closer to God and help them to choose to spend their lives in generosity. Fr. Patrick emphasised the fact that,

If you are working in a Jesuit school, then you are most likely one of those people, so our hope is that the retreat speaks to your heart in a way that helps renew and deepen your commitment to the schools. Additionally, in this present moment, many of us are sheltering in place, so these exercises are meant to give us strength during this time in human life.”

Each day had the same general structure, presented in podcast style, an innovative way for an Ignatian retreat, and one that worked really well. Each morning, afternoon, evening, depending on the time zone of the participants, Fr. Patrick welcomed everyone to the retreat and introduced the day explaining how each session would be structured. After the introduction, Fr. Casey made a 15-minute presentation on the day’s theme inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  Fr. Patrick then returned to speak for ten minutes about how that theme relates to our lives through captivating personal and often funny stories as well as pieces of Scripture to illustrate the points Fr. Casey made on a more theoretical level. Following this the two presenters engaged in a discussion about the topic and shared their thoughts and experiences about it in a friendly and conversational way. Some of the retreat participants noted how the presenters’ personal friendship enriched this experience and added an extra layer of warmth and charm to their presentations and interactions.

The formal part of each session was closed with a prayer. Then Fr. Patrick introduced the second part, the faith sharing portion in breakout discussion groups, where participants were invited to engage in a simple form of an Ignatian spiritual conversation (for 25 minutes) with several rounds of sharing, led by a group facilitator selected during each group session.  At the end of the group session everyone was brought back together once again for some parting thoughts and a closing prayer. Reading the reflections of some of the participants these group sessions were an important part of the online retreat experience and participants enjoyed sharing with their colleagues from different parts of the world.

Each day’s theme was building on the previous day, helping retreat participants savour more and go deeper in the Ignatian exercises.

Day 1: The Apostolate and First Principle and Foundation

Day 2: The Call: An Invitation to a Relationship

Day 3: Journey of Christ: The Way, the Truth, and the Life

Day 4: Ascension: On earth as it is in Heaven

But these sessions would also stand alone, as major, fundamental spiritual themes are being treated in each one. You can watch these recordings and download the prayer and reflection material for each day on the Retreat Page “On Earth as it is in Heaven” 

”On Earth as it is in Heaven” gave  us food for thought, nourishment for the spirit and challenged our own faith journey helping us reflect on our core identity as Christians and as human beings. Some of the retreat participants have generously shared their reflections of the experience here: “Experiences from retreat participants from our global community”.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank Fr. Casey and Fr. Patrick from the bottom of our hearts for generously sharing your spiritual gifts and introducing us to the marvelous richness of our Christian and Ignatian heritage and making it relevant for today’s circumstances as we, as a Jesuit education community are confronted with many challenges during this global pandemic. These words of encouragement and hope touched our hearts and certainly helped us reflect, pray and reconnect with what’s essential and  “store up consolation” in anticipation of what lies ahead.

The fifth day, the Bonus Session, was developed to help participants replicate and adapt this retreat experience in their school. In this final session the two presenters shared how this retreat came about and was constructed. In a Q&A style session participants asked questions and received many great ideas and tips for organizing school retreats. For more details on the Bonus Session see this article “How to Replicate the Experience of the Retreat “On Earth as it is in Heaven” in Schools – Bonus Session”

Linked to the Retreat page there is a conversation, please feel free to comment on your experience or ask questions about replicating/adapting this retreat experience in your school. Here is a link to this conversation