Fr. John Meehan's points for making a private retreat.
One of the symptoms of addiction to alcohol and other substances is called a blackout. During this period a person seems to be going about their usual activities, working, driving, or anything else but they are not aware of what is happening and they do not remember anything about it afterwards. This happens at a very late state in the addiction, near the time when it becomes life threatening. In a lesser but almost as dangerous a sense, all of us suffer from symptoms similar to blackouts. I go through long periods of time without much awareness of what is going on. All too often I do not even bother to remember what happened today or last evening or anytime. My life goes on with little awareness and even less reflection on what I am doing and what life is doing to me. This life style is destined to lead to boredom, depression, and is perfect training to be the opposite of a wise person.
On the other hand, if I want to grow in wisdom, understanding, and love of life and living, I need to reflect on my own life. To know myself and learn from my own experiences is the beginning of wisdom and healthy living. Reflection and awareness are the most important qualities needed for the growth of my spiritual life.
Self awareness and self knowledge are the strong foundation for any growth in the spirit and for both wholeness and holiness. To aid my self awareness and self-knowledge I will make it a practice twice daily to make such an examination, both during and after my retreat.
This exercise develops awareness and draws my attention to the presence of God in my life. Twice a day for five or ten minutes I will stop whatever I am doing and take a few moments to center myself. I will become quiet and internally alert. Then I will gently place myself in the presence of the Spirit of God, for a minute I will rest quietly and then review my day to that moment. To do this exercise well I need to recall what has taken place in my day up to this time of prayer. I will ask two questions of each happening or activity that I remember: was God present? How was God present? For God's presence and action in my life, I will offer a prayer of thanks; for my lack of awareness and for my sins, I will say " I am sorry".
This is a good prayer to record in my journal . After some time it will be important to reflect back on the various ways in which God has been present in my life and how God has shown love and has influenced my life.
If this discipline is followed daily, several very healthy effects will come into my daily living. The most telling one will be growth in my awareness of the presence of God. This awareness will not only be of past things reflected upon but will also involve my own growing awareness of God's constant activity in my life. I will slowly become more and more conscious of God's actions and learn to be alert to them most of the time. I will with patience become aware of the divine activity in my life by breaking through the various obstacles that I have developed to block out much of God's grace.
Over time this discipline will aid me directly in developing the contemplative openness to see and experience God's working and presence at all levels of human experience. God actually gifts all of us with the graces of contemplation but usually I am too preoccupied and distracted to be aware of the opportunities. My growing awareness of the presence of God, will contribute much to breaking down the barriers that limit my full human development and my experience of the divine.