Best Retreat Ever, Part Two. Praying at the Speed of Guelph

Recently, I wrote about a three-day retreat which I made in the summer of 2009. The key moment of that retreat took place as I was sitting outside, on a bench facing the Speed River. I experienced, there, a moment of consolation and of revelation, as I discovered within myself certain desires regarding my future life and ministry.

One might imagine that, as I sat there by the river that day, it was a beautiful setting: that the sun was shining and warm, the river glinting in the sunlight; that there was a gentle breeze, and birds chirped away happily.

In fact, though, such was not the situation. The wind was rather cool, and I felt somewhat uncomfortable as I sat there.

However, I decided not to leave that spot; and my discomfort ended up becoming part of my prayer experience. I thought of and prayed with Jesus, cold and tired and hungry, and yet teaching and serving others.

Toward the end of this time of prayer, I experienced the aforementioned blessed, consoling moment.

This spot, at the bench by the river, was a favourite of mine during that retreat. I came back to the same spot often. Earlier in the retreat, I had sat on that bench for a while after a good, long walk.

A dragonfly had landed on my knee, then, with a smaller insect in its clutches. I watched as the dragonfly proceeded to ingest its meal. A rather violent scene, would be one way to see it; but it struck me at that time as being rather amazing, as being beautiful.

Eric Jensen, SJ, is a spiritual director there in Guelph, at Loyola House. During this particular three-day retreat, he defined spiritual consolation along these lines: “loving only God, who’s in all things.”

This definition came back to my mind later on, and I added the following phrase to that definition: and so really loving all things!

Such, I would say, was my experience during that retreat. I sat outside, in the midst of a creation that was sometimes uncomfortable and sometimes violent.

What happened in the midst of that creation was that I found myself loving things and loving God. I had received the grace, at least for a few moments here and there, of being with God in the midst of God’s creation. Perhaps I was able to see the world as God sees it, to love it as God loves it.

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Source for all photos: Brendan McManus, SJ

Paul Robson SJ is a priest studying for a Master's Degree in Theology at St. Paul University, Ottawa.

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