Give the gift of a retreat this holiday season

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — As a Jesuit, Father Joe Laramie knows how important it is for the Christian to partake of some spiritual refreshment by getting away from it all and going on retreat.

But he also knows how hard that can be for most people who have jobs, families and a long list of responsibilities.

That’s why he wrote the little book “Abide in the Heart of Christ: A 10-Day Personal Retreat with St. Ignatius of Loyola.”

St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuit order, knew a thing or two about busy lives and making retreats.

“The wisdom of St. Ignatius is perfectly suited to our busy times,” said Father Joe, a campus minister at St. Louis University. “He spent the bulk of his ministry in the big, busy cities of Europe —  Paris, Madrid and Rome.”

Father Joe studied at Kenrick- Glennon Seminary in St. Louis prior to joining the Jesuit novitiate in 2000. He studied graduate theology at Boston College, earning Master of Divinity and Sacred Theology Licentiate degrees. He was ordained a priest in 2011.

He also has some Kansas City area connections.

While a high school student, he helped lead a Kairos retreat at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1995. He also helped lead a retreat for high school youth in St. Louis.

“There were six of us [who led] that retreat,” said Father Joe. “Two of us are now priests: me and Father Scott Wallisch, former Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas vocations director.

“And another leader on that retreat was Tim Chik, director of the Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.”

Father Joe returned to Rockhurst High School as a teacher’s aide in 2002, and again to be director of the pastoral office from 2012 to 2015.

“I loved my time there,” he said.

In his book, Father Joe used the writings of St. Ignatius as a guide to deepen the reader’s relationship with Christ. The book, which was released on Sept. 14, has 151 pages and is divided into 10 chapters or “Exercises.” The chapters consist of one or more meditations and then five or so questions and activities.

The book came about because of “three streams of grace” in his life, he said.

The first stream came from a 30-day silent retreat he made two years ago. From it, he said, he received “tons of grace” and was inspired by the wisdom of St. Ignatius.

The second stream came from working with young people on high school and college retreats. Through that work, he saw how receptive boys and young men were to the spirituality of St. Ignatius.

The third stream was the experience and knowledge he gained from working as a preacher and spiritual director at the White House Retreat Center in St. Louis.

“The book is an opportunity to make a retreat in daily life — while you are going to work, caring for your kids or going to classes,” said Father Joe. “That might mean spending 20 minutes in the morning to read the chapter, and then 20 minutes in the evening to do some prayer and reflection, and some journaling.”

The book can be used in a group or by oneself, for a 10-day retreat or spread out over a month. A couple can use it together.

“It makes a retreat flexible or accessible,” said Father Joe.

“Abide in the Heart of Christ” costs $15 and was published by Ave Maria Press in Notre Dame, Indiana. The book can be purchased at Catholic bookstores, through the Ave Maria website at: ave mariapress.com, through Father Joe’s website or from major online booksellers.

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