Advent Retreat At Home?: Some Resources for You!

4 Dec

Many of us might wish or dream that we could stow away for an Advent / Winter retreat, but given today’s economy, we find that we can afford neither the time nor the money to do so. Advent is time provided us by the Church to intensify our ongoing conversion to the Gospel, to becoming more attune to God’s presence in our lives, and to grow more Christ-like in our love and service to others. Thankfully, there are many excellent free resources to be discovered right on the internet today that allow you and I, with a little discipline and effort, to make a meaningful spiritual retreat right in the comfort of our own home! I’d like to share a few. These are ones that I have either  personally found beneficial or they are resources on websites that I often visit and know to be of solid value.

It just so happens that in each of these cases, the retreat resources come from members of the Jesuit order. For those of you not familiar with the Ignatian traditions for prayer (another name for the Jesuit tradition), you will find it a scripturally-centered approach that emphasizes using one’s imagination and feelings as important tools for prayer. You will also find that wherever commentaries are provided on particular scripture passages, they are invariably well-written and enlightening. Here they are some links with a brief description of each:

  1. One Day Advent Retreat: If you are strapped for time, or have a whole day to yourself, and want to spend some time in prayerful solitude, an anonymous priest (from the internationally acclaimed site  Sacred Space, which is run by an Irish Jesuit community) has provided the materials for a guided mini-retreat here: http://www.sacredspace.ie/retreat/retreat200511_index.htm.  As you will see, there are three sessions comprising the retreat. You are instructed to make out a schedule for your sessions. Just scroll down to the bottom of the web page and then download the retreat materials, either as a Microsoft Word document or in PDF format.
  2. “PRAYING ADVENT”: I would call this excellent site provided by the Jesuit Community of Creighton University a kind of “Build-Your-Own-Advent-Retreat” or “Spiritual Erector Set” approach, aimed at helping spiritual seekers pray their way through the Advent and Christmas season. The link is found here: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Advent/ In addition to providing a daily meditation for each day of the Advent and Christmas seasons, there are a large number of additional articles, prayers, devotions and and scripture meditations to be found here that can be personally adapted to your interests, needs and time, so that you can prayerfully escape the hustle-bustle of life. In the lower right-hand corner of the web page, you will also find audio retreats (from actual retreat sessions) led by Fr. Lawrence Gillick, S.J. and Andy Jaspers, S.J. You can listen to one session a day or once a week, making it a more extended mini-retreat experience for yourself. This can be done spending as little as ten minutes a day.  So that you get the maximum benefit of the materials found on this site, I suggest that you be sure and read this brief “Guide to Daily Prayer” article found on the site: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Advent/dailyguide.html.
  3. Advent Devotions for High School and College Age Youth: The campus ministry program at Creighton University continues its long tradition of providing daily meditations on scripture written by various students. I have always been struck by how insightful and spiritually challenging these reflections are. Young or old, you’ll find these wonderful aids to making daily prayer an important part of your Advent and Christmas seasons! Go here where you will find the daily reflections displayed in a calendar: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/daily.html
  4. “Advent Reflections” On-the-Go (PODCAST FORMAT): Many people (and I am one of them) like to listen to podcasts on their iPod or MP3 Player. And I have a number of podcasts that I listen to that have spiritual themes. If you are one of these, perhaps you might try this Advent retreat podcast, compliments of the Jesuit community of the New England Province. There are four audio files that can be downloaded for listening to on your portable sites, one for each week of Advent, and each presented by a different Jesuit priest.  The topic themes for each week are: Anticipating Joy, Using the Examen During Advent, Imaginative Prayer, and Advent Gifts and Graces. One of the great advantages here is that listeners are introduced to and taught many of the elements of Ignatian prayer, including how to discern (recognize)  God’s presence (the Ignatian motto is “See God in All Things”), the prayer of the Exam (a wonderful prayer form used to help one learn to “hear” what God is saying), and the use of the imagination in prayer. The site is found here:  http://www.sjnen.org/AdventReflections

There are so many more great resources out there but I hope you find one or more of these sites helpful in enriching your prayer during this blessed season of Advent!

Maranatha! (Come Lord Jesus!),

Tom

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