And did we not brush up against some Mystery together here? Did we not speak here as the angels speak, in a language beyond words? Did we not hear God singing to us? What can compare to that, really?
The poet and literary critic Paul Mariani penned these words near the end of his graceful memoir "Thirty Days: On Retreat with the Exercises of St. Ignatius." The 2003 book draws from a journal he kept during what is known as "The Long Retreat" devised by St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.
Mariani had journeyed through a silent retreat — one of many kinds offered at Jesuit retreat houses. And he spent those weeks in an old stone mansion on the rugged coastline of Gloucester, Massachusetts, at Eastern Point Retreat House — one of many settings for Ignatian retreats.
Jesuit retreat houses can be found in places ranging from New England’s rocky coast to the foothills of the Rockies and the rustic trails of Northern California. They are part of urban landscapes too.
In all surroundings, the retreat centers help people of all backgrounds discover the God who enters into their lives. Ignatian spirituality is of course a signature offering. It is a way of listening — and responding — to God’s promptings. But more generally, the retreat goers find spaces for prayer and reflection. In an atmosphere of simplicity and (often) silence, they can better hear God’s call.
Most houses offer an assortment of spiritual renewal programs.
For example, "guided" retreats for groups often center on a theme — which could be the Lenten journey, or men and women in recovery, or some other focus — while "preached" retreats offer presentations of material for daily prayer and reflection. There are also "directed" retreats made by individuals. These retreat goers meet usually once a day with a trained spiritual director to discuss what is happening as they open themselves to God.
A retreat can draw together people who have never met each other. Or it could involve members of a parish youth group or colleagues at a Catholic school. Retreats can run for three hours, or 30 days (and durations in between).
Since St. Ignatius bought a printing press in 1556, the Jesuits have been involved in communications. Today the Society of Jesus publishes a number of award-winning journals and publications. Click below to access our latest issues.