How to Begin Planning a Retreat

By Rhen

 

The start of a new year is a very popular time to plan a retreat. Maybe you are interested in doing so, but do you know what to look for, or where to start looking?

Let’s start with what type of retreat to look for.

Types of Retreats

Did you know that there are actually several different types of Catholic retreats?

The type that most people are familiar with is called a “preached” retreat, but there are also “private” and “directed” retreats. The best retreat for you depends upon what you are looking to get out of the experience.

Each of these types of retreats typically occurs at a retreat center. It is often expected that you will spend the duration of the retreat at the retreat center, which is why most retreat centers offer overnight accomodations.

Preached Retreats

Preached retreats are very common and there is a good chance you have heard of one going on at a retreat center or parish nearby.

Preached retreats are typically a weekend spent at a retreat center with a group, and each day there are several talks given by a retreat director or by outside speakers.

This is a great type of retreat to make if you need a boost to your spiritual life and would like to be invigorated with a sense of community by fellow retreatants.

It is also a great option if you are making your first ever retreat. The structure and content are provided, you just have to show up.

The topic of the retreat can vary greatly – from styles of contemplative prayer to the lives of the saints to finding joy in everyday life.

There are often retreats on different topics offered by any given retreat center throughout the year, so with a little bit of searching you should be able to find a retreat that focuses on a topic that is relevant to your current spiritual needs.

When choosing a preached retreat it is important to keep in mind the setting of the retreat center, the daily schedule for the retreat, and the topic being covered. All of these factors should line up with the style of retreat you are looking for.

In most cases preached retreats run from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon on a given weekend.

Private Retreats

A retreat where no formal schedule is provided is called a private retreat.

You might be staying in a hermitage by yourself, or you might be renting out a room at a retreat center. The main point is that there will not be talks given at these retreats – your day is scheduled as you wish.

There are different approaches you can take to a private retreat. You might study a great spiritual book, you may commit to a regular set of prayers each day like the Liturgy of the Hours or the Rosary, or you might just schedule regular periods of prayer and contemplation without a set schedule.

Everybody is different, but in most cases a private retreat will be more fruitful if you have some prior experience with retreats.

Some retreat centers offer hermitages on the property to allow an individual space for a private retreat, and so do some monasteries. In other places, the best option might be one of the rooms in a retreat center.

The length of a private retreat can be adjusted to whatever will work with your schedule.

Directed Retreats

A private retreat in which you meet regularly with a spiritual director is called a directed retreat. A spiritual director is often a priest or religious sister or brother trained to help guide you spiritually.

What is the main benefit of a directed retreat?

The spiritual director will monitor your progress during the retreat. They can offer insights about your spiritual life and give suggestions on how to get the most out of the remainder of your retreat.

The spiritual director uses their unbiased perspective to help you find and correct any deficiencies in your prayer life, and to encourage you to foster the elements that are working well.

If you make a directed retreat at a retreat center or monastery you probably will not get to choose your spiritual director, which is ok. The spiritual director will likely be a priest, nun, or monk who is on staff at the center.

It is important to note that this form of spiritual director is a little different than a spiritual director that you might meet with on a regular basis to discuss your spirituality and everyday life. The spiritual director we are talking about will only be guiding you through the duration of your retreat.

Directed retreats can last as little as a weekend, but it is common to make an eight day or even a thirty day directed retreat as well. Weekend directed retreats might be slightly longer than a standard weekend preached retreat. In many cases the directed retreat begins on Thursday evening and runs through Sunday afternoon.

Finding a Retreat

Finding a retreat that fits your schedule and needs can be difficult. Where you live (or where you would like to make the retreat) makes a big difference.

Start by searching CatholicRetreats.net for retreat centers near you.

Many large cities have several retreat centers, meaning there is likely to be an option available on any weekend that works for you.

More rural areas will have fewer options. There are even entire states that do not have a retreat center.

What to do in that case?

First, for preached retreats, check with your local parish and diocese. Sometimes there is a weekend retreat offered at a nearby parish. If this is the case you may be able to attend the retreat talks during the day and return home at night, which makes the retreat less expensive.

For a private or directed retreat check for a local monastery, or something similar, that may allow you to rent a room for a few days. Many do offer this. You may even be able to join the religious community there for prayer and Mass during your retreat.

If none of these options work for you another option is to use the guided retreat that we compiled using advice from retreat center directors, called “A Do-It-Yourself Weekend Retreat with the Rosary.”

It will walk you through every step of the process and provide you with a schedule of prayer and reflections. Find it here.

The Cost of a Retreat

It is, unfortunately, impossible to give a hard number for the expected cost of a retreat. It depends on the type, length, and location of the retreat. Some centers may ask for a free-will donation, though many will charge a specific price.

If you have questions about pricing or any of the specifics regarding a retreat the best way to learn more is to directly contact the retreat center or parish which is hosting the retreat. Accommodations and retreat details will vary from one retreat center to the next.


Are you looking to go deeper and get the most out of your retreat experience? Our new community is coming – a place to work through in-depth courses on the best preparation for retreats and returning from retreats, a community to share experiences and help you on your journey, and regular challenges to help build your spiritual “fitness” and encourage a strong habit of daily prayer.

We will be opening this course to a small number of people to test and work out the bugs in the coming days. If you would like to be notified about the opportunity to access this community and information before anybody else, enter your email in the box below.

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ACTS Retreats

By Rhen

Across the country there is one type retreat that is especially on the rise, helping to build parish communities through weekend retreats.

They are called ACTS retreats, named for the four pillars of the retreats – Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service.

What Are ACTS Retreats?

ACTS retreats were born in 1987 out of the Cursillo movement. Three men who had been involved in Cursillo wanted to put together a similar program, but with a focus on building parish life and community. The end result was a three day, three night retreat format that was structured similar to the description of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles, especially in Acts 2: 42-47.

ACTS retreats are intentionally less structured than Cursillo retreats, and are meant to take on the traditions and atmosphere of the parish sponsoring the retreat. Some events are required but many of the presentations are selected by the retreat team and director.

While ACTS retreats place an emphasis on building a community over the course of a three-day retreat, the goal is to have the retreatants return to their parish and take on more involvement in day-to-day parish life, not keep themselves apart as a separate group within the parish.

The Purpose of ACTS Retreats

The basic goal of an ACTS retreat is to bring the retreatants into a deeper relationship with God and with fellow parishioners through daily prayer, an emphasis on community in the parish, the study of Scripture, and a spirit of service to God, the parish, and each other.

The Structure of ACTS Retreats

ACTS retreats are three day, three night retreats that start on Thursday evening and run through Mass on Sunday morning. The retreat is usually sponsored by a particular parish for its parishioners, and is typically presented by a team of parishioners who have experienced the retreat in the past. Separate retreat weekends are given for men and women.

The retreat talks focus on the four pillars – adoration, community, theology, and service – and the retreat is guided by Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Since many of the presentations are selected by the parish retreat team, the weekend tends to take on the “flavor” of that particular parish.

The retreat team is led by a Director and is composed of twenty to thirty individuals who have attended ACTS retreats in the past. They organize the retreat, conduct the talks and activities, and provide for the needs of retreatants during the weekend.

 

 

How to Bring ACTS to Your Parish

Since ACTS retreats are led by parish members who have participated in the weekends before it takes a little bit of planning to get the program started at a new parish.

The most fundamental way of getting ACTS into your parish is to send parishioners to ACTS retreats with other local parishes until enough of them (twenty to thirty) have the experience to host the retreat with your home parish.

This may or may not be viable for your parish. There is also the option of working with ACTS Missions, who can either send a partial team to supplement your parish team once ten people have experienced the retreat, or send an entire team to lead a series of two men’s and two women’s retreats over the course of two years to get enough people trained to sustain the program at the parish going into the future.

Find out more about ACTS Retreats at ActsMissions.org

What Does ACTS Cost

The main cost of the retreat weekend is room and board for the three nights, which can vary significantly by region. The cost for retreat materials is only about $20. A typical weekend cost falls in the $175 to $250 range.

Where to Find ACTS

ACTS started in San Antonio and has since spread around the world. You can currently find them in at least 58 dioceses in 28 states in the US, as well as Canada, England, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and South Africa.

As of this writing, ACTS has a presence in the following United States dioceses:

ALASKA – Anchorage, 0Juneau

ARIZONA – Phoenix

CALIFORNIA – Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernadino

CONNECTICUT – Hartford, Norwich

FLORIDA – Orlando, Pensacola

GEORGIA – Savannah

HAWAII – Honolulu

ILLINOIS – Belleville, Chicago, Peoria

INDIANA – Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indianapolis

KANSAS – Dodge City

KENTUCKY – Lexington, Louisville

LOUSIANA – Alexandria, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Shreveport

MAINE – Portland

MARYLAND – Baltimore

MASSACHUSETTS – Boston, Fall River

MINNESOTA – St. Paul-Minneapolis

MISSISSIPPI – Biloxi

MISSOURI – St. Louis

NEW MEXICO – Las Cruces, Santa Fe

NEW YORK – New York, Syracuse

OHIO – Toledo

OKLAHOMA – Oklahoma City, Tulsa

OREGON – Portland

TEXAS – Amarillo, Austin, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Ft. Worth, Galveston-Houston, Laredo, Lubbok, San Angelo, San Antonio, Tyler, Victoria

WISCONSIN – Milwaukee

VIRGINIA – Richmond, Virginia Military Archdiocese

 

Cursillo Retreats

By Rhen

If you have ever spent any time scanning the retreat offerings of local retreat centers there is a strong chance that you have seen a retreat title that didn’t make much sense – “Cursillo.” Cursillo retreats are among the most popular retreat offerings across North America. What are they?

What is Cursillo?

The world “cursillo” is Spanish for “short course,” and Cursillo retreats are set up to be just that – a short course in Christianity.

Cursillo was founded in 1944 in Spain and was introduced in the United States in 1957. It is now offered in almost every U.S. diocese.

The retreats are highly structured weekend retreats that run from Thursday evening through Sunday evening. They place a strong emphasis on community and evangelization, and the goal of the retreat is to help Christians to become more fully Christian, enabling them to transform their environment to be more Christian through their daily living.

Cursillo takes place at a local retreat center where retreatants can get away from everyday life and focus for three days and three nights.

Purpose of Cursillo

Cursillo retreats are meant to expand your prayer life and foster continuous spiritual growth that will increase your knowledge about scripture and the Catholic faith. It will also equip you to spread the Word of God in your everyday life in a very natural way.

Who is Cursillo For?

Are you longing to experience your faith more deeply and live it in your daily life?
To enrich your relationship with God, no matter how strong it may be right now?
Are you looking for a community with which to share your faith journey?
Do you want to become more confident in and enthusiastic about your faith and in sharing it in the secular world?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then Cursillo is for you.

That being said, joining a Cursillo is not as simple as just signing up for a retreat.

To get started, a new Cursillo candidate needs to find a sponsor (more on that in a minute).

Both spouses of a married couple are highly advised to make Cursillo together, since the personal and spiritual growth experienced on the weekend are easier to understand and accept when both spouses experience it.

Since the Sacraments are an essential part of the Catholic Cursillo weekend, Christians of other faiths are encouraged to attend a Cursillo that is adapted for their own faith.

It is suggested that those going through especially stressful events in life, such as losing a loved one, wait at least a year before making the retreat so that life can normalize and they can invest fully into a rigorous weekend retreat.

The Need for a Cursillo Sponsor

A unique aspect of the Cursillo movement is the need for a sponsor before making your first retreat. The sponsor must be somebody who has participated in a Cursillo retreat before and remains active with the movement.

Sponsors are meant to explain the weekend to the new retreatant, provide prayer support, help with family arrangements and logistics during the retreats, and provide transportation to and from the retreat site.

After the weekend your sponsor will help you get established in a “group reunion,” which is a small group of Cursillo participants that meet regularly to share their spiritual journey together. These are usually groups of three to five people that meet informally on a weekly basis.

Your sponsor will also introduce you to Ultreya, which is a larger gathering of various group reunions that helps to foster a larger Cursillo community.

The Cursillo Weekend

Each day of a Cursillo retreat begins with morning prayers, ends with night prayers, and includes Mass.

Away from the retreat center other Cursillo participants offer prayer and sacrifice for the success of the weekend throughout the retreat. This is called “palanca,” the Spanish word for “lever,” because it helps to “lift up” the candidates on the retreat.

The first evening of the retreat, Thursday evening, provides a chance for the retreatants to get to know each other. The “retreat phase” starts on Thursday evening and runs through Friday morning. This phase is done in silence and is meant to help retreat participants analyze their own lives and cause them to desire to encounter God.

Friday’s focus is on helping the participants to have a better understanding of themselves. Presentations are made by both the laity and the Spiritual Directors, with table discussions following each presentation.

Saturday is meant to take that understanding of oneself gained on Friday and use that knowledge to grow in relationship with God. Participants examine the current relationship they have with God and hopefully grow in the desire for a deeper and fuller relationship.

The final day of the retreat, Sunday, combines this knowledge of self and relationship with God and helps the participants to discern how to help God in fulfilling His will. The retreatants learn about the different environments they belong to and how they can affect those environments.

At the end of the retreat on Sunday the participants get a chance to meet the larger Cursillo Community and formally enter the Community.

Where to Find Cursillo

Cursillo is offered in almost every U.S. diocese, and around the world. In general, the easiest way to find a Cursillo retreat near you is to inquire through your local diocese. A list of most diocesan Cursillo websites can be found here.

The cost of the retreats varies with room and board costs, but typically runs in the $150 to $250 range.

A 33 Day At-Home Retreat with Jesus & Mary

By Rhen

“33 Days to Morning Glory” by Michael Gaitley is a series of 33 short, two- or three-page reflections on how devotion to Mary can bring us closer to Jesus and help us become more like Him. It is the perfect selection for an “at-home” 33 day retreat.

The intention is for the book to culminate in what is called “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary,” which you may choose to do, or not do, after working through the book. Reading the reflections in the book will be beneficial and enlightening whether you choose to go through with the Consecration or not at the end.

What is Marian Consecration?

Marian Consecration is, very basically, an act of giving Mary full permission to complete her job of helping us to become more like Christ. As the author points out, it has been said that “going to her and giving her permission to do her job is the ‘surest, easiest, shortest, and most perfect means’ to becoming a saint.”

Marian Consecration has been highly endorsed by many saints, notably including St. Pope John Paul II. This book helps to prepare the reader for Consecration, and provides the prayers and instructions for making the consecration at the end of preparation.

Why Use This Book for Marian Consecration?

The original book on Marian Consecration was put together by St. Louis de Montfort about 300 years ago. It is lengthy and complicated, and it can be difficult to get through (I tried and failed a few years ago). ’33 Days to Morning Glory’ is a more approachable means of learning about, preparing for, and making Marian Consecration.

’33 Days’ explores the writings and lives of four saints who had a strong devotion to Mary: St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta, and St. Pope John Paul II. The book uses the teachings and examples of these saints to help us apply Marian devotion to our own lives and to help us see how Marian devotion can, and does, bring us closer to Jesus.

The Structure of the Book

There are, not surprisingly, 33 days of reflections in this book, broken up into four weeks plus a few days at the end for review. Each week the book focuses on one of the four saints mentioned above.

Each day’s reflection is short and to the point. Almost all of them are about two pages long. My wife and I read these aloud together each night, and it was completely do-able (we have tried reading books aloud together before, and this is the first one we have actually completed).

When to Read This Book

Obviously, you can start reading this book any time you like. The book does, however, recommend a series of starting dates to line up your reading so that the Marian Consecration at the end of the retreat occurs on a Marian feast day.

A couple of notes on that.

First, if there is a long gap between when you want to start the book and when the next suggested starting date hits, go ahead and start it anyway. I have always found that if I put something off it will never happen, and this is probably true for most people.

When my wife and I started the book we were in one of these gaps in time. The next suggested starting date was more than two weeks away, but I had a hunch that there would be days when we, for one reason or another, would not get around to our reading. I was right. We ended up making our Consecration on the recommended feast day after we missed our reading on two weeks’ worth of days sprinkled in throughout the 33 days,

Second, I recommend starting at least a day ahead of the 33 day schedule to go through the introductory reading. It will teach you about Marian Consecration and its history and merits much more fully than we will approach here. There are about thirteen pages of introductory information.

Recommended Reading Dates

Below are the various reading dates that are suggested, with the final day of each period being the Consecration and Marian feast day.

January 9 – February 11 (Our Lady of Lourdes)

February 21 (20<sup>th</sup> on non-leap years) – March 25 (The Annunciation)

April 10 – May 13 (Our Lady of Fatima)

April 28 – May 31 (The Visitation)

Varies – Saturday after Corpus Christi (Immaculate Heart)

June 13 – July 16 (Our Lady of Mt. Carmel)

July 13 – August 15 (The Assumption)

July 20 – August 22 (Queenship of Mary)

August 6 – September 8 (Nativity of Mary)

August 10 – September 12 (Holy Name of Mary)

August 13 – September 15 (Our Lady of Sorrows)

September 4 – October 7 (Our Lady of the Rosary)

October 19 – November 21 (Presentation of Mary)

November 5 – December 8 (Immaculate Conception)

November 9 – December 12 (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

November 29 – January 1 (Mother of God)

December 31 – February 2 (Presentation of the Lord)

A Word of Warning

Beware: if you make Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, the mother of God might really start putting you to work for her son’s mission 🙂

Saint John Paul II called his Total Consecration a turning point in his life, and his papal motto (“Totus Tuus” – “Totally Yours”) even comes from the writings of St. Louis de Montfort.

Maybe you are familiar with Greg and Jennifer Willits, who are known for their Catholic podcasts and radio projects, as well as the organization Rosary Army. Their ministry came as a result of Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary.

The same week that my wife and I made our consecration we were unexpectedly started on a path that led to us moving hundreds of miles away to take a new job working for the Church. Was this as a result of the Consecration? It certainly feels like it.

Where to Find the Book

This book has really taken off over the last couple of years and is not difficult to find. Amazon carries it (Here) and it should be available in most local Catholic book stores as well.

Discussion

Have you read “33 Days to Morning Glory,” or do you plan to? Share your thoughts, your journey, or the fruits of your Consecration in the comments section below!

Retreats for Married Couples: Worldwide Marriage Encounter

By Rhen

When it comes to retreats for marriage couples, one organization sets the standard: Worldwide Marriage Encounter.

The Original Married Couples’ Retreat

For over 45 years WorldWide Marriage Encounter has been offering retreat experiences to help deepen and enrich the relationships of married couples.

WWME offers a variety of retreats, but the most common version is a weekend retreat at a hotel or retreat center that helps couples escape from the busy world and grow closer to each other. These weekends run from Friday evening through Sunday night, and they might also be held in another location, such as a parish, that requires couples to drive in from home each day.

In addition, WWME now offers evening and half-day retreats at parishes.

Retreat Format

Marriage Encounter retreats are held with multiple couples in attendance, but there is never any instance of “group sharing” or “group therapy.”

Talks are given throughout the retreat by a team of volunteer couples, and the couples participating in the retreat are given opportunities to spend time away from the others to discuss topics and share with each other to deepen their relationship.

The format of the weekend provides an atmosphere that promotes honesty and strong communication for couples to grow closer together.

Retreat Details

WWME retreats are offered across the world. In North America retreats are available in English, Spanish, French, and Korean.

While the weekend is presented from the Roman Catholic perspective and is based in Christian thought, it is open to couple of all faiths.

There is no set cost for a WWME weekend – a donation is requested instead. This donation covers the expenses of the weekend. There may also be an application fee for the retreat, which varies from one location to another.

Financial difficulties should not discourage any couple from attending a Marriage Encounter weekend – fees can be waived in  some circumstances and the donation is optional.

 

If you are looking for a weekend retreat to strengthen your marriage, whether you are newly married or have been married for many years, search out the nearest retreat from the Worldwide Marriage Encounter website.

Retreats for Engaged Couples: Catholic Engaged Encounter

By Rhen

Months of planning goes into your wedding day, but many couples fail to look past the big day to the years of their marriage afterward. Catholic Engaged Encounter offers weekend retreats around the US (and around the world) to help engaged couples do just that.

Engaged Encounter

A popular retreat for engaged couples is Catholic Engaged Encounter. Engaged Encounter puts on weekend retreats including a series of presentations led by a team of married couples and a priest.

The weekends allow engaged couples to get away from the distractions of daily living and prepare for their lives together by honestly and intensively discussing everything from their strengths and weaknesses to their life goals and expectations.

While the retreat is held at a retreat center or similar venue with other couples in attendance, there are no “group discussion” or “group therapy” sessions. Between the presentations time is set aside for the couples to talk privately.

The purpose of the presentations during a Catholic Engaged Encounter weekend is to discuss what marriage has meant to the married couples and how a great marriage consists of much more than just the wedding day.

The presentations will not “tell you how to live,” but they will offer ideas and tools to help you in your marriage and will start discussions between you and your fiancé to help strengthen your relationship.

What is a Catholic Engaged Encounter Weekend Like?

The Engaged Encounter experience varies somewhat depending on your location. Many weekends are held at retreat centers, but some are held at schools or hotels.

Schedule

The weekend will start on either Friday night or Saturday morning and go through Sunday afternoon. Presentations are held throughout the weekend, with time in between for discussion with your fiancé. There is not much free time allotted during an Engaged Encounter retreat. This is an intense weekend designed to strengthen your relationship before marriage, but not necessarily a relaxing weekend.

Lodging

In some cases there is lodging provided for the retreat participants (such as at a retreat center with dormitories) but other locations host “commuter” weekends where participants must arrange their own lodging and drive to the retreat each day.

Retreats that provide lodging may put you in a room with a roommate for the weekend but the roommate will be somebody of the same gender, not your fiancé.

Catholic Engaged Encounter Weekends in Spanish

There are options for Catholic Retreats Encounter weekends in Spanish in the United States in both California and Arizona.

Cost

The cost of a Catholic Engaged Encounter weekend varies, depending on the location. To find the cost of a weekend in your area you will need to look up local offerings using the map linked in the next section.

Where Are Catholic Engaged Encounter Weekends Offered?

These retreats are hosted in at least one or two locations in almost every state in the US. There are also options around the world.

To find a location near you please visit the Catholic Engaged Encounter Map.


To learn more about Catholic Engaged Encounter, visit their website.

The Best Book on Scripture for Retreats

By Rhen

We get asked all the time for recommendations of books to read while on a retreat.

We also get asked frequently about great books about understanding Scripture.

There is one book that stands above all the rest which fulfills both of these needs. It is called “Walking With God” by Jeff Cavins and Tim Gray.

“Walking With God” shows how to read the Bible – it focuses on the books of the Bible that tell the narrative story of Scripture and explains how the rest of the supplemental books fit in. It then walks through the narrative of scripture and explains what is happening at each point in the story.

This book describes the story of Scripture in a condensed manner, focusing only on what is really important to know right away, and explains the less-obvious aspects about what is going on: how the people of the time would have read the story, how the politics of the time affected the story, and how the language can be correctly interpreted to the get the correct meaning.

Why It Is Great

Here are a few reasons this book is great:

It Is Approachable

There were some big words and themes in the book, but for the most part it was one of the most approachable commentaries on Scripture that we have ever seen for the everyday Catholic.

Many books about Scripture are extremely long and almost require you to have an advanced degree in Theology (and several languages) in order to understand the writing. This book’s biggest strength is that it is approachable and can be read in a reasonable amount of time – it is less than 300 pages long.

This book is not too difficult for somebody who is new to studying Scripture, yet it will still provide exceptional insight for the experienced Scripture student.

It Guides the Reader Through Scripture

Even with years of Catechism classes most of us still did not understand the arrangement of books in Scripture, the purpose of various books, and the proper sequence to read the books.

Walking With God will clear all of this up.

This book makes clear the “narrative” books of the Bible versus the “supplemental” books, and that makes a big difference when you are trying to understand the full story.

And another thing – following the narrative opens up to the reader just how incredible the story of the Bible is. You will find several “can’t put this book down” reading sessions where the story is so intriguing that you cannot stop reading. The story told in the narrative of Scripture is actually a fascinating and exciting when you know how to follow it!

It Helps the Reader to Understand What is Going On

There is so much underlying the story of Scripture – culture, language, politics, etc. – it is hard to get a full grasp of the story without an explanation of how each of these elements is playing into it at the time.

Simply learning a couple of the key concepts explained in Walking With God with change the way that you read and understand Scripture (especially the Old Testament).

How This Book Can Be Used

Walking With God is one of the most informative and useful books on Scripture that we have ever found. Honestly, we could call it life-changing.

This book is worth reading through multiple times, maybe even on a regular basis every year or two.

There are several ways that this book could be used for spiritual enrichment.

On Its Own

Obviously, just reading it is a great start.

Read Simultaneously with the Scripture

Reading it concurrently with the Scripture passages that are being discussed would be especially enriching, but it would be a major undertaking. Even though “Walking With God” only focuses on a handful of the books of the Bible in detail, there is still a whole lot of reading involved to get through those few books.

With the Book Club

This book was a selection for the Catholic Retreats Book Club, so you can follow along with the chapter-by-chapter commentary and discussion from the Book Club that went along with reading the book starting here.

It would be a great idea to spend time with this book on a retreat, probably a week-long retreat, reading this book slowly. Then, immediately after the retreat, start reading through the narrative books of Scripture. This would be a great way to continue the retreat experience after returning home and “coming off the mountain” of a spiritual retreat, and it would enrich one’s understanding of Scripture.

What do you think? Have you read “Walking With God?” Let us know your experience with it in the comments below!

You can find “Walking With God” by Jeff Cavins and Tim Gray at Amazon.com

 

Downloadable Lenten Meditation Books

By Rhen

Did Lent sneak up on you again this year? Don’t worry, you are not alone 🙂

We put together a list of Lenten meditation books available as ebooks, so you can take advantage of your Ash Wednesday motivation and get started on your Lenten reading goals before the ashes cool. Even when Ash Wednesday has come and gone, remember, it is never to late to start a routine to improve your spiritual life. God has a soft spot for procrastinators 😉

The links will take you to Amazon.com where you can check out a few pages of each book to get a better idea of which one is right for your journey.

If you are interested in some more extensive Lenten reading and discussion, check out our book club!

All of these books can be read using a Kindle device, or the free Kindle Reading “app” which can be downloaded here for your smartphone, tablet, or even your home computer.

For Families

Bringing Lent Home with St. Thérèse of Lisieux: Prayers, Reflections, and Activities for Families

EWTN host Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle uses the life of St. Therese of Lisieux to guide families through a prayerful Lenten season. The book includes practical projects for families with children-preteens. It is not year specific, so you can use it for years to come!

Bring Lent to Life: Activities and Reflections for Your Family

This book takes the family week by week through Lent with an “Easter Tree.” It’s a great idea for kids who may still be miffed at you for taking down the Christmas tree, and it will give you a tool to help them connect the spiritual similarities between Advent and Lent.

Lenten Classics 

These are booklets that many parishes provide. They are also offered in a convenient $0.99 Kindle version that you can keep with you on your phone.

2015 Magnificat Lenten Companion

Living Faith: Lenten Devotions for Catholics: Lent 2015

Journey through Lent with a Friend

Meditations for Lent

A beautiful collection of short meditations taken from the writing of Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627-1704). If you love the beauty of the Lenten season, pick this one!

Pope Francis: Living Lent with Passion: Encouragement and Daily Prayers

Quoting our beloved Pope Francis, the little Lenten collection reflects on the challenges and guidance our Pope has given us in the last couple years.

Lenten Meditations with Fulton J. Sheen

This book walks through Lent with selected writings from a pretty cool guy. If you have always wanted to read something written by Fulton Sheen but are a little intimidated, maybe this would be a good place to start.

Lent With the Saints: Daily Meditations

Get inspiration for your Lenten journey with stories of some great saints. Check out this book and you just might make a new friend!

Bringing Lent Home with St. Thérèse of Lisieux: Prayers, Reflections, and Activities for Families

EWTN host Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle uses the life of St. Therese of Lisieux to guide families through a prayerful Lenten season. The book includes practical projects for families with children-preteens. It is not year specific, so you can use it for years to come!

 

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What is your favorite Lent-related book? Make your recommendations in the comments below!

A Simple Guide to Lectio Divina

By Rhen

Among the oldest and richest forms of prayer in the Catholic faith is one that many Catholics are not familiar with.

It is called Lectio Divina, which is Latin for “Holy Reading.” It is a way of praying by reading scripture more as the Living Word of God than as a text to be studied and scrutinized.

This is a form of prayer that is quite personal – it is more difficult to do with a group of people (as opposed to prayer like the Rosary or the Liturgy of the Hours) and it is therefore more difficult to pass on to others.

History

Lectio Divina goes back to times in the early centuries when most people could not read. It was common in Monastic settings to have one monk read passages of scripture out loud to the rest of the monks for them to reflect upon.

The first formalized recording of Lectio Divina did not occur until the eleventh century when a monk of the Carthusian order described the prayer in a letter to a fellow religious. The letter described a four-rung ladder to Heaven. Each rung was a step in what would come to be known as Lectio Divina.

The four steps are reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. In the setting of Lectio Divina the steps are often referred to by their Latin names: lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio.

The Prayer Process

In short, the practice of Lectio Divina is performed by:

  • Finding a quiet place to read and pray without interruption (sometimes this action is given the name “statio” for “position”)
  • Read a passage of scripture (Lectio)
  • Meditate on the pieces of scripture that stood out to you (Meditatio)
  • Pray to be changed by what you have meditated upon (Oratio)
  • Contemplate the goodness of God and His Word (Contemplatio)
  • If you are praying in a group setting, discuss what each of you have gained from the prayer (sometimes this step is called “collatio” for “discussion”)
  • Go out and live it (sometimes this step is called “actio” for “action”)

Let’s take a closer look at each step:

Statio (Position)

Find a place that is quiet and peaceful, without distractions. Relax in a position that will help you to pray.

Lectio (Reading)

First find a passage to read. A couple of paragraphs (about a dozen verses) is usually a good length.

New Testament readings are probably the best. The goal is to be able to read slowly and take a lot out of the reading while maintaining focus.

In Lectio Divina we do not try to quickly read through a great volume of scripture. You might read the day’s Gospel reading from Mass, or you might open to a random passage.

Read the passage. If possible, and if you are comfortable doing so, read the scripture out loud to yourself so that you can both see and hear the Word.

If anything about the scripture is confusing seek a good Catholic commentary to help understand it.

There may be footnotes in your Bible for this purpose, or you might look to a book such as this one.

Meditatio (Meditation)

Take a moment and reflect on the reading. Focus especially on any words or phrases that jumped out at you. Ask whether there is something that the Lord might be calling you to do by pointing out the segments of the passage to you, or if there is something that you are called to pray more deeply about.

It may even be worth reading through the passage again to see if there is any more that you can get out of it.

Oratio (Prayer)

Take time to talk to pray to the Holy Spirit that you might take what you have gained through this Holy Reading and apply it to your life so that you can grow closer to God and be more fully moved to do His will.

Contemplatio (Contemplation)

Now we rest in the presence of God and give Him thanks for His grace and His Word.

Collatio (Discussion)

If Lectio Divina is being done in a group setting this is the point at which we would discuss what we have learned, or what moved us, with the group.

Actio (Action)

Finally, we go out and live what we have learned through Lectio Divina and prayer.

Praying Lectio Divina with a Group

Although Lectio Divina is more often done as an individual prayer, it is certainly possible to pray it as a group.

The most recommended way to pray Lectio Divina as a group is very similar to the process above.

First the passage is read out loud by one member of the group, and then there is an extended period of silence for reflection.

If desired, the group can go around and each person can share a word or phrase from the passage that stood out to them. This is not the proper time to discuss the scripture, just to point out the pieces that caught the members’ attention.

Next, a different person from the group reads through the passage a second time. Another extended period of quiet reflection follows.

Now, if desired, a period of discussion about the passage can take place between the members of the group.

Finally, the group concludes with a prayer.

 


Do you have any experience with Lectio Divina? Share your tips or experiences in the comments below.

Preparing for Advent

By Rhen

Far too often I set an audacious goal, feel overwhelmed, and give up on it. A couple weeks later I often think back and realize that if I had just taken one small step each day, rather than trying to tackle the whole goal at once, I would have already accomplished the goal, and then some.

In previous years I have approached Liturgical seasons such as Advent in the same way. I thought I would do something like pray the Liturgy of the Hours three times a day, AND pray a Rosary, AND spend an hour in Eucharistic adoration, AND read a book of the Bible each day.

Prior to Advent I would only do a small fraction of these things so the sudden onslaught of prayer became overwhelming to work into my day, and I gave up on most of it pretty early in the season.

Now I realize that doing something small each day, with consistency, does a lot more to enrich my spiritual life during Advent than big, audacious efforts.

There are 25 days in Advent. Do something small each day and you will get great spiritual preparation for the Christmas season without becoming overwhelmed!

Here are four simple ideas of what you can do to make Advent a fruitful season of prayer:

1. Give Up Something Small

We think of Lent as being the time for sacrifice, but it is a beneficial practice for Advent as well.

You could give up something specific for the duration of Advent, or you could make an effort to give up something that you would otherwise enjoy each day.

Perhaps it is the second cup of coffee in the morning, or the cookie after lunch, or watching a favorite tv show at night.

Denying yourself a small pleasure each day will help remind you of the hunger and anticipation for the coming of Christ at the end of Advent.

2. Read a Chapter of Luke each day

What better way to anticipate the celebration of the birth of Christ than to spend some time reflecting on the entirety of His life?

The Gospel of Luke has 24 chapters. Read one chapter each day. It will only take four or five minutes a day and it will walk you through everything from the angel telling Mary about the conception of Jesus through His death, resurrection, and ascension.

3. Learn Something

You do not have to read a theological masterpiece to learn more about the faith. Take a few minutes each day and watch a short video from a fantastic website like Fr. Robert Barron’s Word on Fire, or even watch videos of the pope’s activities for the day.

It does not have to be much. Either of these will get you more in touch with the Faith and with the daily life of the Church, and over the course of 25 days they will build up healthy, faithful habits

4. Join the 25 Days of Advent Inspiration

CatholicRetreats will be providing a series of daily e-mails during Advent to provide you with a bit of inspiration each day, including:

  • Unique prayers that you may not be familiar with
  • Short reflections for the Advent season
  • Maybe even a few surprises along the way!

If you would like to receive our daily Advent inspiration in your inbox simply click on the picture below:


What are you planning to do to get the most out of your Advent? Let us know in the comments below.