There have been so many changes that have occurred during this global pandemic, many of them frustrating for us all. Still, some changes have produced fruit, and perhaps even fruit that will last. Through the Global Lent Retreat “A Shoot Will Spring Up, Return To Me with Your Whole Heart”, the Retreat guides, Fr. Pat and Fr. Casey, have invited participants of our global community to be receptive, to open the eyes of our hearts to ponder and reflect on how it is that shoots of hope appear in our midst. Our Christian and Ignatian tradition can guide us to reflect, to imagine, to feel with the persons and circumstances of the past and thus help us to make sense of our own life and spiritual experiences today.
This global online retreat, organized by Educate Magis, is the third of its kind, which has been created for faculty and staff in Jesuit and Ignatian schools around the world, and is based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
On Thursday 25th of February we had our first session entitled: The Light of Life – Past Faith to Sustain Our Present Moment. During this session we all prayed for the grace “to savor the moments in the Christian tradition that reveal life in the midst of difficulty”.
In this session Fr Casey Beaumier SJ, Vice President and University Secretary in Boston College (Boston, USA), brought us back to the core of our Christian faith reminding us that no matter what happens in our everyday lives, the life of Jesus can guide us, it can be a beacon of guidance, of inspiration, of direction for us. We find that in the person of Jesus, there is the way to discover potential shoots of life that are emerging all around us.
“In Christianity, sometimes things are not as they first appear or perhaps better, that the appearance can transform in time. So that where there was barrenness at one moment in time there is emerging life in another, later moment in time. What we are emphasizing today is the strength of our faith tradition in the past. If we look to the past events, the circumstances, the persons.. we can draw insights that speak to our lives today. Insights, especially that will help us sustain through the final moments of the pandemic so that we find ourselves filled with anticipation.”
Later, Fr. Patrick Nolan SJ, Assistant Director of Enrollment and Chaplain to Athletics in Boston College High School (Boston, USA) engaged in a conversation with Fr. Casey. They discussed the very relevant question of broken dreams, which is the experience of many of us and of our students, and looked at our spiritual tradition to find some answers. There is wisdom from our past that reveals light.
On Thursday 4th of March, we met again for our second session entitled: God is directly at Work in the Life of the Creature. On this occasion the grace we prayed for was for “an awareness of the moments of grace, the little shoots of hope, as I review my personal history of the last year”.
In this second session Fr. Casey called on the 15th annotation of the Spiritual Exercises, where St. Ignatius says:
“But while one is engaged in the Spiritual Exercises, it is more suitable and much better that the Creator and Lord in person communicate Himself to the devout soul in quest of the divine will, that He inflame it with His love and praise, and dispose it for the way in which it could better serve God in the future. Therefore, the director of the Exercises, as a balance at equilibrium, without leaning to one side or the other, should permit the Creator to deal directly with the creature, and the creature directly with his Creator and Lord”.
Fr. Casey explained further, “which means that God is already at work at all times, and in all ways in every single person’s life. Ignatius puts this into the Spiritual Exercises as a kind of reassurance for directors. There are circumstances in people’s lives, when we listen to those circumstances, where we feel somewhat at a loss as to what we could say or where God seems to be absent. It can be perplexing and perhaps even disappointing, and this is meant to be reassuring that even when we don’t detect the hand of God at work that we believe that God is present, that God is active.” And closed by reflecting, “this annotation is relevant to today, as each one of us in the past 12 months has experienced moments where we felt utterly abandoned or that we felt that life was stuck, or that somehow God was forgetting about us or that God had abandoned us. Ignatius reminds us that God is present in all ways, in all times, in all things but God never forces himself into our lives. That is why it is important that we take time to review, to look back in order to see with the gift of hindsight, those little moments, shoots of life, little images of hope that God has placed into every single life, every single circumstance, even in the midst of difficulties like a global pandemic.”
At the end of the reflection, retreat participants were invited to do a little homework, to do an Examen, to look back and to detect those moments of hope, those moments of light, those little shoots of life that have been emerging, perhaps in ways that in the moment we just simply could not see, we could not detect.
If you would like to listen and pray along these themes, please visit the Virtual Lent Retreat Page, which contains the recorded sessions and inspirational texts from Scripture and our faith tradition.
You are very welcome to join the remaining live sessions of the Lenten Retreat “A Shoot Will Spring Up, Return to Me with Your Whole Heart “, which will be on the following dates:
Session 3 – Thursday 11th of March 2021
Session 4 – Thursday 18th of March 2021
Bonus Session – Thursday 25th of March 2021
If you would like to participate in the remaining sessions, please email us at [email protected]
Note. This Retreat is held in English only. If you are looking to join a Spanish Retreat during Lent we invite you to learn more and register for the Spanish Retreat “The Calm Amidst the Storm, Desolation or Conversion”