Follow the Lenten Retreat in Daily Life online!
The Lenten Retreat in Daily Life is a 7-week retreat that is experienced in the course of one’s daily life. It is aimed at helping retreatants to deepen their relationship with God so as to lead a more discerning life. All materials for the retreat are available for anyone who wishes to spend some time with the Lord this Lent, deepening our relationship with him and feeling the immense love and mercy that is given to us.
Prayer points, notes and powerpoint slides from sessions will be uploaded here. The latest updates are at the bottom of this page.
The Mercy Examen
This video is a 10 minute long guided prayer that guides a person through a prayerful review of one’s day. It is best prayed towards the end of the day and is aimed at increasing one’s awareness of God in one’s life so as to allow one to better appreciate the depths of God’s love and mercy. Follow it as it helps and tune out from it where necessary.
There may be some problems playing the YouTube video on some mobile phones. If there are problems, an audio only version is available for download. Download the audio-only file here.
Week 1 – Remembering Love, Remembering God
Starting a retreat is not easy. It’s a time of transition as well as the start of a gradual process of peeling away the layers that don’t contribute to my relationship with and keeping the ones that do. It’s tempting to want to be completely new in all things that we do but one should be patient and go slow. Give space for God to work wonders in our lives.
This week, we should focus on remembering the instances where God has been with us, the times where we felt love and the places where God has been in our lives. We should try to see where we’ve found God (or where God has found us) and remember how those times came about. God’s there, we just have to remember.
Video from the session – Beyond the Days by Ricky Manalo
Week 2 – God’s Abiding Love
As one continues on the retreat, one realises that prayer is at once both easy and difficult. Easy in that the initial excitement of prayer can open our eyes and hearts to the realities and possibilities of God in our lives. Difficult in that settling into a rhythm of prayer can take quite a bit of effort. That’s the way progress in the spiritual life goes – it’s both easy and difficult at the same time. It is what we make of the ease of prayer and associated difficulties and our response to the Lord that should help us to move forward.
We continue to reflect on God’s love for us and this week, we try to feel how God’s love has been constant all through our lives. How wonderful it is to feel that the Lord has been with us all the time! As we discover more and more about ourselves in prayer and through our Lenten observances, we consider the Lord as the source of all the gifts and good things that we have experienced in our lives. The Lord has been there and will continue to be there. But in what forms? God’s love comes in many forms and it would be great to consider how and where the Lord comes to us in all that we think, pray and do during this retreat.
Song from the session: Love Changes Everything ( Michael Ball)
From Aspects of Love by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Week 3 – God’s Healing Love
Given that a retreat is all about finding oneself and one’s relationship with the Lord, our delving into the deeper parts of ourselves can lead us to unearth parts that we might be a little uncomfortable with. It may be parts of us that have been hurt before and that requires some healing. Sin also rears its ugly head as we see ourselves turn away from God and from others. Brokenness is part of the human condition but the good news is that our weakness is not the end of the story. God, who created us, knows this and showers us with love. All we need to do is to recognise its provenance and to open ourselves to receive it.
God wants to heal us, whether we want it or not. We see in the readings of this week’s prayer points that the Lord is ever ready to come to us, to heal us and to send us out to spread this love to others. That’s the key movement of this week, to allow us to recognise our weakness and then to seek some healing from the Lord. It may come in the form of physical healing but could also be the healing of our psyches, a reduction of our weaknesses and a general turning back to the Lord. We come before the Lord, in humility, and seek healing for whatever we need.
Song from the session: Loving and Forgiving by Scott Soper
Week 4 – God’s Freeing Love
The experience of healing should prepare us for many things, the most basic of which is the deeper experience of God’s love. Healing allows us to connect with ourselves at a deeper level. After all, the intense experience of healing and reliance on God allows us to understand our limitedness as humans. This in turn makes us ever more reliant and trusting in the Lord whom we know wants only good things for us. We know that we are both limited (by our own humanity and weakness) and limitless (by the inifinite grace that’s available to us) at the same time. This allows us to free ourselves enough to truly try to respond to what the Lord seeks of us.
Have we ever wondered why we were created in the first place? St Ignatius summarised this very well in The Spiritual Exercises when he said that we were created to ‘praise, reverence and serve’ the Lord in all things. That’s quite a tall order but then again, there’s a limitless amount of grace available to us for this purpose. What we need is the freedom to choose this life of loving and serving the Lord in all things. We do this not because we have to but because we’re inspired to do so out of love of the Lord who loves us. The concept of freedom is often misunderstood. Yes, freedom means that we can choose to do what we will but have we thought about what is it that we truly will (or want to choose)? Freedom in the light of God’s love means that we become free to choose only that which God wills for us. Our relationship with God allows us to know this and to act accordingly.
Songs for the session: Blackbird by The Beatles + Cover version by Boyce Avenue [Lyrics]
Week 5 – God’s Life-Giving Love
The freedom that we receive from God’s love allows us to make choices, good choices about how to follow the Lord better. Our choices should flow from how we want to live our lives – to praise, reverence and serve the Lord. The recognition that our freedom and entire lives are gifts from the Lord and that we live because of the love of the Lord engenders within us a profound sense of gratitude. This gratitude should allow us to realise, again, that the unconditional love that the Lord gives us is only limited by our own perceptions of life. We often stop ourselves from fully receiving God’s love in our lives because of fixed or warped images of what life should be like (mostly from what others tell us about life). By accepting fully the life that the Lord gives, we would be able to make better choices that would be in line with God’s will.
Life and love come with desire. Desire sometimes gets a bad reputation from the media and other interpretations which place it with something that is uncontrolled or with just sexual desire. Desire is the active part of love – the part of love that makes us want to go out to do things. Desire, as we hear in The Rose by Bette Midler, is daring and hopeful. It’s daring because we have to dare to make use of the love that’s given by the Lord to love others back and to sometimes make ourselves vulnerable as a result. It’s hopeful because desire does not always result in fulfilment but we seek it anyway. As we near Holy Week, we make the additional effort to pray to clarify our desires to try to see how the Lord makes us want things and how our actions and thoughts are animated by the very desire that’s born our of the Love of God.
Song for the session: The Rose by Bette Midler
Week 6 – No Greater Love
Holy Week is the highest point of our Christian calendar. It’s thus fitting that we take time, especially during this weekend, to contemplate and try to accompany the Lord in his passion and death while keeping our hopes alive for the resurrection. We often say that we try to accompany our Lord in his suffering but have we every realised that it’s often the other way around? While we try to suffer with the Lord, it’s actually Him who suffers along with us, accompanying us and consoling us in our deepest sorrow, all while holding the cross on his back.
The other thing is that mix of emotions that we often feel during Holy Week can be confusing to say the least. From reverence on Thursday to utter sorrow and despair on Friday to emptiness on Saturday to the highest joy on Sunday. It’s confusing and it’s chaotic, especially during the lead-up to the passion. Stay with the chaos and confusion. Don’t be tempted to run away or try to over-analyse it. Holy week’s a time for us to try to work through our confusion about how we follow the Lord and to try to look at our own feelings and reactions to all that’s happening. Only then can we deepen our relationship with our suffering Lord and feel the mercy that’s there.
Songs and Video links
Glory in the Cross by Dan Schutte
The Thai Commercial – Hair
How Beautiful by Twila Paris
Week 7 – Go out to Love and Serve
The joy of Easter is not something that’s easily contained. There’s something about the Lord’s resurrection that makes us want to tell everyone about it. To want to climb to the top of a mountain to tell everyone around that ‘The Lord is risen! Alleuia!’ It’s this feeling that should infuse us as we go about this week and it’s this feeling that we want to harness for the future. The reality of God’s love was shown through Holy Week and what we do with it comes through our Easter joy. We want to go out not just to tell about this love but to do something for others with it.
Love, as the song goes, is a many splendoured thing. As we transition out of this retreat and back into our ‘regular’ life, we look for the graces and insights that were particularly significant for us and store them up for the future. Our life and the retreat should not be separate, we should keep up the effort at making time for the Lord daily and use that to nourish our relationship with the Lord. Love takes many forms and we should seek to experience this love in all the forms, through all means.
Songs from the session
Up Where We Belong – Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes
Seasons of Love (Broadway Cast)
From Rent by Jonathan Larson