by Sister Judith Sutera, OSB
Special to The Leaven
Lent is almost upon us — a time when we tend to get more serious about our spiritual progress. Why go it alone?
Something out of the ordinary that can offer structure and stimulate growth might give a real boost, and the archdiocese is filled with opportunities to support its residents.
Many parishes offer adult formation sessions, study groups and devotional practices such as Stations of the Cross to nourish their parishioners.
If your parish does not have something at a convenient time, check out neighboring parishes through their websites or The Leaven’s calendar page.
Lent invites us to put extra effort into works of charity and justice as part of our faith commitment. Informative lectures and meetings at nearby colleges and organizations are happening on many critical life issues: refugees, abortion, human trafficking, capital punishment, rights of the poor and minorities.
Lent should be a time to learn more and make extra efforts to speak to others about your concerns, both to government representatives and to your friends and family.
But maybe it’s time, also, to take it a step further and consider a Lenten retreat.
Have you ever thought of “giving up” some time to go more deeply into your soul? Might you “sacrifice” some of the hustle and noise of ordinary living and go into the quiet where God can lovingly speak?
Before you say that you couldn’t possibly do that, consider your preconceived notions about retreats. It doesn’t have to be at some distant isolated location, cost a lot of money, or involve very long and dull sermons on your sins and shortcomings.
Can’t go away from home for a “real” retreat? A parish mission or weekly inspirational series can be the starting point of a personal retreat right in your own home.
The key to making a retreat is moving away from what is happening in ordinary daily life to get in touch with what needs to be happening in the deepest self. That takes silent time and prayer.
Rather than coming home from the mission talk and turning on the TV (or turning on the car radio even before that), a retreatant stays in that sacred word long enough for it to sink in and for a response to form.
While we may think that God is speaking in the words of the person giving the lesson or mission talk, that is just the preliminary. We have to engage with those words. Quiet space and focused listening are needed to explore what God is saying to me — personally, right now, in the circumstances of my life today — to find the real message.
Prayer is a response to that message. After prayer and serious thought, we have to make the extra effort to change and grow in whatever way God is calling us.
Can’t find an in-person spiritual event that you are able to attend? Don’t despair of making a retreat. Find a good spiritual book. There are many that are structured for Lenten use with 40 specific readings and often prayers or actions to take in response to the reading.
The main thing is to keep the discipline of doing sacred reading every day and taking at least a half-hour to meditate and pray on what you have read.
Not sure what you want to read? Simply go to your web browser and type in “online Lenten retreat.” You’ll find a whole array of resources to structure your meditation and actions.
Again, the main thing is to make this a special time. You can’t just sit at your desk and read the daily reading the way you read the rest of the reports and emails that clutter your screen and your life. This has to be your God-time, quiet and focused.
Is all this making you yearn for a “real” retreat? Fortunately, this archdiocese has some excellent resources.
- At the Sanctuary of Hope Prayer and Retreat Center, there is an ecumenical, contemplative community that welcomes individual retreatants to spend a day or longer in 32 acres of beautiful and peaceful space. And you don’t have to travel far because it is located right in the heart of Kansas City, Kansas, at 2601 Ridge Ave.
Information about arranging a retreat is available online. And if you can’t make it to the retreat center, this website also provides outlines for two online retreats: “Counting My Blessings: A Busy Mom’s/Grandmother’s Home Retreat” and “A Man Fully Alive: A Focused Retreat for Busy Men.”
- For an even more secluded and nature-centered environment, there is Christ’s Peace House of Prayer in Easton, near Leavenworth. Retreatants can spend a day or longer on 120 wooded acres with a choice of guest rooms or rustic cabins. A Lenten preparation retreat, March 4-5, will include four or five talks and time for prayer, reflection, spiritual reading, walks and resting in God. Information is available online.
- Two religious communities also have retreat centers on their campuses. The Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth sponsor Marillac Center. Coming events include: “A Recovery Retreat” on February 24-26, with Father Jim Harbaugh, SJ, rooted in 12-step spirituality, and a Lenten day of prayer, “Dust and Ashes, Water and Wine: Symbols and Scripture for Lent,” with liturgist John Winkels, on March 4.
“Linger Over Coffee – Lent” is another option. It will be a series of five reflections by staff members from 10:30 a.m. to noon on the Tuesdays of Lent (March 7, 14, 21, 28 and April 4). Each week’s conversation can “stand alone” if you cannot attend the whole series. More about this and other opportunities for private retreat there are online.
- Sophia Spirituality Center is a ministry of the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison. Besides offering space for individual private retreats, scheduled offerings during Lent include: “Lent with St. Benedict” (March 3); “Lenten Retreat Day with Handel’s Messiah” (March 12); “A Getaway for Self-Renewal” (March 14 or April 8); “Growing a Mandala through Contemplation” (March 15); “Angels Among Us” (March 24); and “Releasing the Mystic in You” (April 6).
For an intensive experience of Holy Week with a monastic community, Sophia Center offers a Triduum retreat lasting from Holy Thursday afternoon through Easter Sunday dinner (April 13-16).
Or, on March 14, enjoy one of Sophia’s regularly scheduled “coffee and silence” days when retreatants can come and take advantage of the contemplative space at no charge (freewill offering). More information can be found online.
- All of the retreat centers listed here offer appointments for individual spiritual direction as well. The Benedictine Sisters also offer spiritual direction and some spiritual presentations, including a Gospel nonviolence group and weekly Scripture study at their Keeler Women’s Center in Kansas City, Kansas, in the Catholic Charities building at 2220 Central in Kansas City, Kansas (www.keelerwomenscenter.org).
Enough options for you? With all these choices, anyone should be able to find something to help make this Lent more meaningful and to provide a structure to foster spiritual growth.
Still think a retreat is not important? As with any relationship, our relationship with God requires conversation: taking the time to listen closely, to converse back and forth in honest ways, even if the subject is difficult.
Think about your own human relationships and how enriched they are when we give them special time and space to grow. Recall going on a walk with a friend, having a date night with a spouse, making time to do something special with a child, taking a refreshing vacation.
If recalling that time made you feel something warm in your heart, if it brought up a treasured memory, if it reminded you of something very deep that you shared and how that affected the relationship, then you can understand why each of us could benefit from a little quality time with the Lord.
Lent is a great time to make it happen.