A retreat is a special time in our community life in ICLA to consciously focus on our Lord Jesus and let him be the center of our lives and our vocation. In our annual retreat on this Jubilee Year of God’s Mercy, may we encounter the Lord in a surprising way, that we may see everything more clearly, love God more dearly and follow him more nearly, especially at this stage of our spiritual journey.
The resident students’ annual retreat is one of the highpoints of ICLA’s academic year. It is usually held on campus for five days and the retreat master chooses the theme and designs the dynamics taking into consideration the students’ needs and the recommendations of the CARES staff. In the past 4 years, the organizers invited retreat facilitators from India (2012) the Philippines (2013), Belgium (2014), and Japan (2015). This year, the Institute has opted for an 8-day (October 29 - November 5, 2016) silent, directed retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. The Retreat Master is Fr. Paulini Zhai, a Jesuit priest from China but residing in the Philippines. During the preparatory meeting with the CAREs staff, he emphasized that this particular style of retreat is not so much about listening to “great input” or “power – talks.” Rather, it is primarily about making a wide space for God who is already here and who wants be found, encountered in all things. Generosity in prayer, openness to the Spirit and to the spiritual director/ companion can help in making the retreat fruitful and effective.
The Holy Spirit is the real director of the retreat, but the role of Spiritual Directors or Spiritual Companions is so vital in the process. The students will meet individually with a spiritual director for about 30-45 minutes every other day (or four times during the 8 days), to share their experience of prayer or about whatever is going on between them and God throughout the day. For majority of the ICLA students, going for Spiritual Direction is something new, but those who already have been seeing their Spiritual Companion on a regular basis attest that it has been helping them grow in knowing the Lord more closely, having self-awareness and in integrating prayer and life. Serving as Spiritual Directors / Spiritual Companions during this retreat are competent spiritual guides. They are men and women who have personally undergone Ignatian retreats and received training in the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises.
ICLA Director Fr. Sammy Canilang, CMF hopes that this very first experience of a silent, directed retreat will help the ICLA students to truly experience God in a more personal way and deepen their relationship with Christ. He also envisions that the different forms of prayer that they will use during the retreat such as Lectio Divina, imaginative contemplation and praying over one’s life-experiences will enable them to be grounded in God amidst their daily activities.
Prepared by Ms. Menchie Rojas