Last week I made my annual retreat. I spent six days at the Palisades Retreat Center on Puget Sound in Washington State. Everything about that place was peaceful: the water, the woods, the atmosphere. My room overlooked the back gardens where I had a view of the rose garden as well as the fountain just down the hill. I loved to open my window in the afternoon and listen to the water. One day I even saw a pair of ducks enjoying themselves in the fountain!
There was a schedule that offered opportunities for me to attend group prayer, Mass, meals, and conferences put on by our retreat masters. Everything on the schedule was optional, and it was brief. I attended almost everything, but since there were two different styles of group prayer offered in the morning, I usually only attended the first one. We watched a movie Thursday afternoon (“Tuesdays with Morrie”), and enjoyed wine, cheese, and other treats during the film. I spent the bulk of each day in prayer, reflection, and reading. I used the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola which gave me seven prayer exercises to enter into throughout the day. I also used The Star in My Heart by Joyce Rupp which engaged me in reflections, and inspired me to attempt to create Mandalas like the one above.
This time of prayer brought me peace, but this did not come without effort. I spent plenty of time each day practicing discipline and self-control in order to let go of distractions so that I could “listen” to God in prayer. Several days, my prayer led me to explore emotional anguish, and it was not always pleasant to sit with this pain as I let God heal my wounds. Towards the end of the retreat, a Reconciliation Service was offered, and it was exactly what I needed. I feel restored and more whole now. My heart rests in the certainty of feeling loved and wanting to share that love with everyone else.