Fifty-nine gathered the morning of Holy Saturday to experience a ½-Day Centering Prayer retreat via Zoom. The format was simple; the silence profound; the intimacy shared. Here is the program that we used, offered as an example of what could be done online.
8:45 AM: A "screen share" document informed attendees that our retreat would begin at 9:00 AM. The screen read: "Good morning and welcome! We will begin our retreat at 9:00 AM. Please assure that your mic is muted at this time and remains so. If you have a candle, you may wish to light it in your sacred space, knowing that the light of Christ is with us, in us and through us, always. In peace, settle quietly."
In addition, selections of sacred music were played in the background.
9:00 – 9:40AM Pre-retreat screen-share and music-share were stopped. Opening welcome, prayer and outline of the morning's retreat schedule. The latter was reviewed on screen. Our first session would have two-30 minute periods of Centering Prayer with a contemplative walk in-between the two periods.
The period of the contemplative walk was offered as an invitation for movement outside in the spring air, to notice the greening, listen to the birdsong, enjoy the wonders of nature.
Another "screen share" document was offered during the contemplative walk time which had an image and the words: "This is the time for the Meditative Walk. Our second period of Centering Prayer will begin at 10:00 AM. In peace, allow your movement to open into spaciousness of being."
10:00 – 10:30AM Meditative walk 'screen-share' was stopped. Prayer and 30-min. of Centering Prayer
10:30 AM Break/Prayerful Movement – This break was longer and also offered an invitation for movement outside in the spring air, to notice the greening, listen to the birdsong, enjoy the wonders of nature.
Another "screen share" document with sacred music was offered during the break time which had an image and the words: "This is the time for Prayerful Movement in silence. Our third period of Centering Prayer followed by Lectio Divina will begin at 11:00 AM. In peace, allow your movement to open into spaciousness of being."
11:00 AM Break/Prayerful Movement screen-share and music-share were stopped. Prayer and 30-minutes of Centering Prayer; followed by Lectio Divina on a Scripture passage. The passage and an image were shared on screen and the passage was read 3x’s with silent pauses in-between each reading. Retreatants were invited to read along, gaze at the image while the passage was being read, or simply to close one's eyes and listen while the passage was read. Afterwards, there was a time of sharing as desired, using the Zoom "raise hand" function and the person desiring to share was called upon by the retreat leader.
The retreat concluded with a closing prayer at noon.
One of the readings before Centering Prayer was a prayer by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger for Holy Saturday:
"Lord Jesus Christ, in the darkness of death you have brought light; in the abyss of the deepest loneliness abides now and always the powerful protection of your love; in the midst of your hiddenness we can … say the Hallelujah … Grant us the humble simplicity of faith, which will not be swerved when you call us in the hours of darkness and abandonment, when everything seems difficult. Grant us, in this time when a mortal battle is being fought all around [the world] … enough light to not lose sight of you; and enough light that we can give it to those still in need of it. Let the mystery of your Easter joy shine like the light of dawn on our days; grant us that we may be truly people of Easter in the midst of the Holy Saturday of history. Grant us that through the bright and dark days of these times that we may always with a light heart find ourselves on the path towards your future glory, which is our joy." Amen.
Though written at another time, we can indeed pray this prayer at this time as we move through the Season of Easter, keeping vigil, entering into solidarity with all the world’s suffering, and practicing resurrection through silence, compassion and love of others. As Pope Francis said in his homily for April 21, 2020, "We can even hear the silence. May it teach us to listen.”
May it be so.