Q: I’m exploring how/if I can organize my life for an intensive retreat. As I look there seems to be a standard of a nine-day retreat and then some lesser number of days. I haven’t found anything that helps me understand the length. Nine days is a long time to organize to be away …
A: Thank you for your question about Centering Prayer intensive retreats. I am a part of the service team who answers questions about the Contemplative Outreach retreats.
The number of days for an intensive retreat range from five to nine and even 10 days. Fr. Thomas intended the intensive to be the first retreat that we attend as a Centering Prayer practitioner. He wanted everyone to experience his human condition teachings within a retreat setting. The original intensive was 10 days long. As time has gone by and more people want to attend an intensive, the length has been shortened to make not only the amount of time but the cost more agreeable to those on the journey now.
There are guidelines for the intensive retreat videos from 5 to 10 days. I served three intensive retreats the past few months — two were 8-day retreats and one was 5 days. The one most attended was the 5-day retreat. The participants at all of them were fed spiritually no matter the length. The videos reflect Thomas’ core teaching no matter how many days are offered.
Some retreat teams offer what is called a dual-track Centering Prayer retreat where both an intensive and a post-intensive are offered at the same time. Everyone prays together three times a day for an hour. A contemplative walk is included within that hour. The rest of the schedule differs in that the intensive participants will see a video and share how the material touched them once in the morning and once in the afternoon. The post-intensive participants will have an additional prayer time each afternoon. Other prayer times may include Eucharist and evening prayer. There is also time each afternoon for rest and sharing one-on-one with retreat leaders in what is called soul friending.
Other Centering Prayer retreats can be as short as a weekend which is a nice way to experience your first Centering Prayer retreat. The content of weekend retreats is left to the retreat team to offer a retreat that matches the needs of their community. In most cases, the prayer time on Saturday will be three one-hour long sessions of Centering Prayer with a contemplative walk in each session.
You are right — nine days is a long time to organize being away and resting in God. I don’t know where you are located but hope you can search the Contemplative Outreach online calendar to find a retreat that meets your needs. More and more retreats are being offered and planning ahead is good in that some retreats end up with a wait list after filling up. The Holy Spirit is present in all these retreats so only you and the Spirit can discern which one is best for you.
If you plan to attend an intensive that includes the human condition teachings, you may want to get in touch with the team of the retreat to ensure they are indeed being shown.
When you browse through the months on the online calendar to find a retreat, you may also see events that are offered for a day or online through Zoom. New events are posted each week so check back often.
Please let me know if you have any other questions about Centering Prayer retreat. And when you are able have a blessed and restful first retreat.
Peace and love,