Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Street Retreats for the Busy

Retreats are usually made away from the hustle and bustle of daily life in the quiet of a monastery or a retreat house. An article in the  Chosun Daily introduces us to a Jesuit priest who brings the retreat to people where they live and work.

It was an early Saturday morning and about 10 persons met in front of one of the universities in Seoul. The priest gives them a piece of paper nicely folded and a stone.  The paper recounts the incident in the Gospel of John about the woman caught in adultery who was dragged to our Lord. "'Shall we stone her?' the crowd asked him. Also written on the paper:  "In my hand I have a stone. I can use this stone to  throw it at someone. Or I can condemn myself and use the stone on myself. What would Jesus tell me to do with the stone?" The group takes the paper and stone and goes off for an hour to reflect and comes back with their heartfelt responses.

For his Street Retreats the priest  selects a topic each week, which he places on Twitter, Facebook and a Jesuit website, and asks that the retreatants take one hour to reflect on the topic and post their reflections on Twitter or on their own blogs. Once a month, offline, he will meet with a group in Seoul that will have an experience like what was presented at the beginning of this blog.  He even recommends that they take pictures during the Street Retreat. This is part of the Catholic tradition that encourages looking at a holy picture so we can enter  contemplative prayer more easily. The stone that was given was to help them use the senses to concentrate and enter more deeply into contemplative prayer.  When looking at the photographs at a later date, after having all the five senses involved, the thoughts one had during prayer may return to the person's attention for further and deeper reflection.

He has about 400 followers on Twitter and although in the beginning they were mostly Catholics, now any Christian can find these online retreats helpful in their prayer life. He was happy to hear that the Catholic Times will include his weekly meditation especially for those who do not use smart phones or the internet.

This is  a grace to have  time to spend in a Street Retreat. The article in the Chosun Daily ends with the words of the Jesuit: "The people I meet on the Street Retreat are not stopping their daily activity to remain in their internal world, but are developing their senses to see how God is working in and through the world. I want to help them experience this  presence of God as they go about their daily activities."

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