Retreat-Need Guidance

Okay so my friend and I are going to visit the Carmelite Nuns next weekend. The nuns have opened up their guest room and chapel for us to have a mini-retreat. Since we will be on our own we need help in deciding how to use our time. The nuns have told us we can join them in the daily office and mass on Saturday and Sunday but other than that we are on our own (Remember they are cloistered)

I think we are both just looking at trying to get closer to God. I just ended my engagement and my friend is the process of discerning whether to become a nun after she finishes school.

Our plan is first to go to confession before we get the convent on friday afternoon. Then evening prayer. I am think rosary, divine mercy chaplet also. I am in the process of reading the "imitation of christ".

Can you think of other books or exercises we could use? It will be more of a silent retreat then anything. We have woods and part of the property open to us also. Any help would be appreciated!

How wonderful to go on retreat! My best advice for you is not to chatter too much, by which I mean, don’t fill up all your time with vocal prayers. You don’t want to make God struggle to get a word in edgewise! :wink:

Maybe you could make a daily schedule to keep yourself on track. Include Mass and the times you will pray the hours with the nuns. Include the Rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet and the Stations of the Cross. Leave the rest of the time for intimate conversation with God. Can you use the chapel for this? It’s always wonderful to be in front of the tabernacle. Walking outdoors is lovely, too.

As for books, take your Imitation, your Bible and, if you have time to get it, this book. Don’t feel pushed to read a lot of any of them, except you really should take the time to read an account of the Passion. Just read until something strikes you, and then quietly talk it over with God, being sure to listen as much as you talk. God has a special message for you!

God bless you!


This is a wonderful opportunity for prayer and reflection for you! I would suggest that you say all the divine office you are allowed to with the nuns. Also, as the Carmelites do, you might spent 2 hours in mental prayer a day. These do not need to be done “back-to-back” but can be done at anytime for you. Allow plenty of time to “be silent before the Lord.” You might also schedule an hour for recreation between the 2 of you–perhaps out in nature (so you don’t bother the nuns) when you can talk and laugh together (St. Teresa of Avila had no use for somber saints!). Bring something to do if possible–like knitting, rosary making or whatever is easily portable. Work and Prayer isn’t only for the Benedictines! Of course, the bible and at least 1 good, helpful book are essential. God bless you and may your retreat be wonder-ful and God-ful!

I’ve got one word for you: Meditation.

Use the quiet time to gently meditate on aspects of the Divine or any other concept related to God. Turn it over in your mind. Visualise. Feel. Don’t fret about things or over-analyse. Just be there in companionship with God.

You don’t have to meditate in a chapel if you don’t want to, but somewhere quiet is obviously a good idea.

Another idea: Spiritual Conversation.

You’re going with a friend. You obviously know each other well but perhaps resist the temptation to discuss the ‘outside world’ while you’re at the convent. Use the time to talk with each other about belief, theology, the Mass, the influence of God in your lives. I’ve heard that sort of thing called ‘active prayer’ - it engages your heart and your mind and draws your intellect closer to God in a way that solitary prayer often can’t (not that solitary prayer isn’t brilliant in other ways of course).

Do these things, and I’d guess that by the time ‘home time’ comes along, you’ll wish you had days and weeks more because you’ll feel like you only just got started.

Peace and God’s blessings to you.

Firstly; ask what they do specifically with their daily routine; when I have been on retreat before there has been a "guidebook" available for the daily offices and daily life of people.

It is good when there is spare time to do the rosary, and other prayers; and it is also good to make use of their Library if they have one. You mention you have a copy of the "Imitation of Christ" by Thomas Haemerkken, a Good book that goes well with the imitation is the "Cloud of Unknowing" - another good "spiritual exersise" book from around the same time, written anon. They may also have a library of their own you can take advantage of. As for if you prefer a modern book; Gerald Vaan from the Dominicans book "the divine pity" is a wonderful explanation of the Sacraments and daily life.

Also; when on retreat it has been beneficial for myself to just sit and do nothing for a few hours; to literally devour the atmosphere.

If your friend is discerning; it may be good to stay in seperate rooms (I have only ever gone on retreat alone) but if it is your/her first time on retreat it may help by gradually introducing yourselves to the life; rather than a full on immersion! -- also, if you have any expertese or skills that may be useful I am sure they will be glad if you could help. The main things you should do are:

All the daily offices (no sleeping in for the 5am one; tempting though it is!)
Join in the life as much as possible (eat together if possible)
Don't clutter up your day with too much work; stay focused on why you are there
Spiritual Direction

If your friend is discerning a vocation; if she has not already told someone; now is the chance - they will happily explain the process; spiritual and practical.

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