Every year for the last 10 years or so I spend the first week of the new year at Manresa, a Jesuit retreat house in Convent, Louisiana about an hour up the river from New Orleans.
Reflection on 2012 – Retreat at Manresa
It’s a three day silent retreat meaning that after our evening meal on Thursday we commit to a vow of silence for the rest of the time we are there.
Except for spoken group prayers and a meeting with a priest we dedicate ourselves to several days of silent prayer and contemplation.
It is something I look forward to every year and each year my experience is different.
There are several chapels on the grounds and I find myself late at night walking the lovely and lonely walks to the Mississippi River and to the woods in the back of the huge property. Sometimes I am up past midnight sitting silently in a chapel in contemplation.
A certain time of it I allocate to take my notebook and reflect upon all my accomplishments of the year, the things I planned to do and didn’t and the things that I didn’t plan that happened unexpectedly. I try to list about a hundred of these and make room even for the littlest things as well as the things for which I’m grateful.
Then after that I make a list of all that I want to accomplish for the new year. I don’t usually make that list too long, about twenty is enough. I include in that list accomplishments for health, finances, relationships, business, creative endeavors and recreation, the whole gamut of experiences I want to have. Then when I get home I hone it all and type it up on computer and keep it handy and refer to it throughout the year so I can see how I’m doing.
The structure at Manresa is very supportive and spiritual. There is a retreat director, usually a Jesuit from another province, who gives us eleven half-hour lectures based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order. Each retreatant has his own room and bathroom, the meals are great south Louisiana type meals, with gumbo and fried catfish, red beans and rice and, of course, wine for dinner. Ah, the Jesuits do like their wine.
When the retreat is over at noon on Sunday before the final luncheon meal we are released from our vow of silence and the dining room suddenly becomes alive with guys wandering from table to table shaking hands with old friends and new trying to get acquainted before we have to eat and run back to our lives.
There is always a little sadness when the retreat ends for me. It always seems that I am just sinking into the silence and the groove of being there when it seems to be abruptl over. But even just this little bit of respite tends to renew me and give me inspiration to charge back into life taking with me the lessons I’ve learned over the past few days. Some lessons are things learned in silence that are hard to put into words, others are quotes and ideas gotten from the priest’s lectures.
I feel being at Manresa is a great way for me to start the new year and am thankful for being able to spend it connecting with the Divine in that silent way that I’m able to experience at that beautiful spot between the river and the woods.
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