Mount Street Jesuit Centre
Ignatian Retreat days
“For me,” says Anne, “they’re a chance to forget about the distractions of a busy life.” She’s talking about the Mount Street Jesuit Centre’s monthly Ignatian Retreat Days.
“I draw close to God and in the stillness he speaks to me … consistently,” she adds.
Anthony observes “it’s an opportunity to become (re)centred through a quiet time of stillness and reflection. The simple framework of thoughts on a theme, silent prayer and sharing in small groups can yield deep insights.” “It’s my oasis in the month,” says Daniel. “It’s where I come and am refreshed.”
Eleven o’clock every second Saturday of the month people gather at the centre. We’re sitting in a circle, anything up to twenty people or so, typically a good mix of women and men, from students to retired people, about a 50/50 mix of people who come quite regularly and new people. Candles burn in a centrepiece. The two facilitators, mostly trained lay volunteers from the centre’s spirituality team, introduce themselves. Then we all do the same, going round the circle. After that, one of the facilitators gives a brief input: reflections on one of Jesus’s parables, say, or on a theme such as mercy or forgiveness, or perhaps a guided imaginative contemplation of a Gospel story.
Then we move into prayer. The facilitator leads us in a short stillness breathing exercise, bringing us into a calm, attentive spirit. We say a preparatory prayer, and silence falls. We stay in silence for half an hour, and the sense of community during that time, sitting eyes closed in prayer in a room with other people doing the same, is astonishing. The presence of the Holy Spirit can be almost like Pentecost in its clarity.
After 30 minutes we are guided through a review of our prayer. For a few minutes, we make notes about what’s happened during the prayer. Then we break into small sharing groups. Each person takes it in turn to share what they want to share about what they experienced during the prayer. No one interrupts them while they speak. No one comments or gives advice. People don’t have to say anything at all if they don’t want to. These are the sacred rules of the sharing groups. And it’s amazing what we learn from one another, how another’s insights can mesh with and enrich our own.
Finally, we gather in the full group again. Insight builds on insight, and a kind of spiritual conversation develops as one person shares something that chimes with what another has been feeling, perhaps struggling with.
After lunch, the afternoon session follows a similar pattern. At four, we leave Mount Street serener than when we arrived, enriched by what we’ve heard from other people, what they’ve generously shared with us. Life’s ups and downs haven’t gone away, but everything seems in truer focus, and we have gained some wisdom and prayer tools from Ignatian spirituality to help us on our way.
Pray with us
Try these stillness exercises to have a bite size experience of Ignatian prayer.
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In 2004, I heard that the Mount Street Jesuit Centre had been born. I offered my services for when people started looking for spiritual direction.