Widespread thanks for Advent Retreat

Journeying with the Magi: Advent Retreat 2015
Journeying with the Magi: Advent Retreat 2015

The Advent Retreat offered by Pray As You Go and Sacred Space has prompted a wave of appreciative messages from across the world.

A joint initiative by the Jesuits of Britain and Ireland, the retreat provided weekly reflections during the Advent and Christmas season and participants from as far away as Canada and India, the USA and Germany – as well as the UK and Ireland – have written to say how much they have appreciated the opportunity to reflect on the Christmas story of the Magi (or Wise Men) from Saint Matthew’s Gospel. A similar retreat is planned for this Lent.

‘Journeying with the Magi’ invited participants to set aside some time each week for their retreat, finding a quiet time that suited them, to read, listen to and reflect upon the materials available. The website described the Advent retreat as a time of “withdrawal for a time of prayerfulness, even going to a special place of seclusion”. Contrasting the experience with going to an outer place, such as a retreat house, it provided “an inner space of attentiveness”, offering suggestions about how to create a quality of listening and of presence, so that the Spirit of God was able to work. And feedback from those who took part suggests that the experience addressed many people’s spiritual needs.

Depth and challenge

Among those who wrote to the producers of the Advent Retreat was Seán from Canada, who said he often struggled with slowing down and allowing himself to be held in love. “These meditations allow that part to open,” he wrote, “and that makes the journey so rich. I also feel a tension between my faith and my work … and some of the places we went with the Magi on this retreat have made for profound consideration of those tensions and how I might compassionately reconcile them. Thank you so much for all you do and for giving me the opportunity to pray in this way.”

Although produced by two Jesuit ministries in Britain and Ireland, the reflections had an outreach far beyond Catholics in Europe. John, an Anglican minister in New Zealand, said that they enhanced his public ministry, as well as feeding him inwardly, adding that he appreciated the “depth and challenge of both the content and process of the sessions”.  Elaine from the USA said she felt honoured to accompany the Magi in seeking and finding the new-born Jesus. “This ‘retreat’ was beautifully done,” she wrote. “The guided reflections were just what I needed to give a focus to my advent and Christmas journey … It fed me and will continue to guide me.”

Pray As You Go and Sacred Space are currently preparing similar materials for Lent 2016, with the working title: ‘A Year of Mercy, a Lent of Healing’.

Upgrading the facilitiesThe current Pray As You Go studio

The Jesuits in Britain are also appealing for funds to upgrade their 6ft by 4ft ‘studio’ to a full sized recording facility with new equipment and a producer’s booth. Since 2008, the PAYG daily guides have been produced in a makeshift studio that used to be an en-suite bathroom. The current ‘studio’ measures 6ft x 4ft and the editor sits on what was toilet while the basin became the equipment table!

“The arrangement was never ideal and the studio has always been a challenging place to produce the reflections,” says Emma Holland, the Producer of Pray As You Go for the Jesuits in Britain. “The space is just enough for two people, and it gets hot quickly which can be uncomfortable. The soundproofing is old and ineffective and the equipment is starting to affect the quality of the recordings being produced.” Last year, Pray As You Go was offered use of the whole bedroom of which the studio/bathroom is part. Generous supporters have so far raised almost half of the sum needed to turn the bedroom into a studio, but £8,000 is still needed to be able to move forward on the project. Find out more here.