A joy and a blessing in my life has been to attend intensive and post-intensive retreats in this silent, sacred part of southern Arizona. During one of the retreats while I was in the silence of my room, I began to think about several individuals in my Centering Prayer Group who, because of medical problems, caregiving responsibilities, or lack of funds, would never be able to attend an eight-day silent retreat. When I returned home I spoke to my friend and mentor Mary Leonard, a founding member of Contemplative Outreach of Phoenix, about what we could provide for those unable to come to the Abbey. We wanted to create an opportunity to embrace prayer in a quiet environment for more than one or two hours a week.
During this period of formation, Mary and I were approached by a local church to help in the creation of a Spirituality Center on their campus. Their invitation and our desire to find a retreat home led us to put together a plan for a one day a week mini-silent retreat. This is how we structured our retreats: the day, held in silence, begins with a one hour sit with a meditative walk, the watching of a DVD or listening to a CD, a time of quiet (for reading, journaling, walking around campus), silent lunch with reading, a second one hour sit with a walk, Lectio Divina, sharing and a closing prayer. The day runs from 9:30 until 2:30 once a week for 18 weeks. Snacks, coffee and tea are provided and each person brings a brown bag lunch.
To enroll, a participant needs to have attended a Centering Prayer Introductory Workshop and its follow-up sessions, and to have a minimum of a six month Centering Prayer practice. We do ask each participant for a $60.00 donation for each six week segment, part of which is donated to the church. We have viewed Fr. Thomas Keating’s Spiritual Journey series in its entirety, as well as other engaging programs.
In October of 2017 we will begin our fifth year of this joining together in silence and prayer. Through word-of-mouth and by informing others through the Contemplative Outreach of Phoenix website, we now have a waiting list of those wishing to participate. The maximum we can serve is eight, so we encourage others to think about starting a similar program in their own parish or congregation. Being able to stay close to home has given those within the contemplative community the opportunity to deepen their Centering Prayer commitment and their contemplative experience within a more retreat-like setting. God, in his graciousness, answered our call, and embraced us with his love.
Here are some comments by those who have attended or continue to attend:
“Attending the mini retreat days has been a blessing in my life. The experience of learning and praying as well as sharing scripture and ourselves is a beautiful way to spend one day a week. I have come to know more deeply my own human nature, and to look upon others with more love and compassion, knowing that we are all the same...made in the image and likeness of God. I find that I have more peace in my heart and even in my body. Something about the quiet and the love and wisdom shared brings me to a place of oneness, with the self, with the other souls in the room and with the world.”
“How does one put into words Gods working in a soul. My experiential knowledge indicates some things have touched me. I don't know how it works but I just know. Any growth I attribute to the work of the Spirit through the weekly mini- retreats.”
“It is very difficult for many busy parents and career people to get away for a nine day silent retreat, a luxury for most in regards to time and money. Offering the program framework of a once a week for18-weeks, brings this deep well of prayer, nourishment and knowledge into 'the marketplace,' thus making such a valuable program of transformation and prayer accessible to those who especially need the strength and growth. Another population well served in our group has been those with health challenges that could not avail themselves of a remote monastic setting, again offering support to those who need it the most.”
“I have been in a situation for several years during which my health has not been good. Being able to attend the Mini-Silent Retreat once a week has brought me the silence into which I can be embraced by the healing presence of God. To be with people who understand my limitations and surround me with unconditional love has allowed me to carry that peace into everyday life. Our souls are connected.”
In Gratitude to God,