Ecumenical Retreats

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Father Bruce Nieli, C.S.P.Known by the title of "Hospitality" or "The Holy Trinity," this icon painted by St. Andri Rublev in Russia in 1425 recalls the three nameless visitors who were provided with food and drink when they appeared in front of Abraham and Sarah's tant in Genesis 18, acting in perfect unity and speaking with one voice.

The following retreats are offered in the framework of what is called "spiritual ecumenism" wherein members of different churches and faith traditions discover and receive valuable spiritual gifts from each other's heritages. These retreats therefore presume that the group of participants is of an ecumenical and/or interfaith composition. Most of the themes envision people of different Christian backgrounds and seek to open them to an experience of how all we hold in common in Christ is much broader and deeper than what still divides us. It is through spending days together in prayer and faith-sharing that people change their perceptions of one another, form new relationships, and engage together in mission and service. A few of the themes also lend themselves to an interfaith context.

Retreat Themes

I. We Were Made for Communion: The focus is on the biblical call to Christians to full communion with one another in the Body of Christ. Topics include the "Why" and the "What" of Christian unity; "How Can I Make a Difference?"; "Qualities Needed by Ecumenically-Minded Christians;" "What Gifts Do the Churches Have to Share with One Another?," "Inspiration and Challenge from other World Religions," and "A Spirituality for the Long Haul."

II. Toward Fullness of Life: Daily morning and afternoon conferences focus on components of a holistic spirituality: Recovering a Weekly Sabbath; Prayerful Presence in Daily Living; Service; Work; Exercise and Play; Time with Friends; Creation and Creativity; Time Alone and in Community; Ways of Praying; the Role of the Body in Prayer; and the use of spiritual life tools such as the Daily Examen of Consciousness.

III. Prayer of Heart and Body: An introduction to meditative prayer in the Christian tradition and to the role of the body in prayer. Yoga postures are taught and then linked in flowing sequences to songprayers as a way of praying through the full expression of one's being and anchoring one's practice in the soil of Christian faith. In addition to meditation, daily program includes an engaging way of praying with the Scriptures.

IV. Remember to Live!: Awareness and acceptance of second-half of life realities like aging and health challenges can bring a clarity and richness to the limited, precious moments of life, and foster a special care for relationships and priorities. This retreat offers a faith-filled way of preparing for and integrating loss, whether of things or loved ones, all the while awakening us on a deeper level to the gift of life that is ours to live now.

V. Pray All-ways: Contemplative living keeps our antennae up and receiver station open to the messages always coming in from the Sender. Participants will learn and practice fresh approaches to meditation, to praying with the scriptures, with beads, with intercessions, with the daily examination of consciousness, with the body, to living with an awakened heart and to praying in all circumstances.

VI. Contemplative Prayer in the Christian Tradition: Two daily presentations on the history, theology, and practice of Christian contemplative prayer, with a period of group praying with the Scriptures (lectio divina,) and a morning and late-afternoon 25 minute period of Christian meditation/centering prayer. Personal time for reading, walking, resting, and journaling.

VII. Becoming Free: Based on archetypal themes in the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, the daily program includes presentations on four steps to spiritual freedom—Know who you are; Live your calling to the full; Let go of results; Daily rededicate your life to God—as well as time for personal reflection and inner work. The focus is not just on freedom from but on freedom for commitment and the inner liberty it brings.

VIII. Lessons from the Mystics: The treasure trove of Christian mystical writings testifies that the mystic is one who is consciously immersed in the experience of God's closeness and love in daily living. We will explore major themes in the tradition and cross-reference characteristics of the mystics lives with our own.

IX. Soul Fire: Accessing Your Creativity: The creative potential within us is one of the things that make us "in the image and likeness of God." The focus is on helping you identify your creative energy, overcome your insecurities, and connect with your chosen method of expression. The Creator has gifted you with creativity; your gift in return is to use it.

X. Inspiration Far and Near: We’re increasingly living in religiously plural communities. Is our response one of suspicion and fear, or one of dialogue and mutual enrichment? We will reflect on Catholic perspectives of other religions; learn about the various forms dialogue takes; deepen our appreciation for what we share, and identify areas of mutual challenge and inspiration for our living. And through it all, we will see how one of the fruits of the interfaith encounter is often a deeper appreciation for what is distinctive about our own faith.

See the Upcoming Events page for information on scheduled retreats.