Thursday, July 30, 2009

A retreat at Georgetown.

As some readers well know, most Jesuits typically make an eight-day retreat each year to renew the graces of the Spiritual Exercises and to refresh their prayer life away from the day-to-day demands of the apostolate. The form and content of each Jesuit's retreat varies depending on his particular circumstances, needs and wishes. Reflecting on my own experience in the Society thus far, I can say that each of the eight-day retreats that I have made has been very different - not simply because I made each retreat in a different location and with a different director, but because each retreat came at a distinctly different point in my Jesuit life.

This year, I made my eight-day retreat on the campus of Georgetown University. As I began to make plans for this retreat in the spring, I was acutely conscious that I was entering a time of transition: coming to the end of my philosophy studies at Fordham, I was also preparing for the adventure of regency and my first attempt at university teaching. I also realized that I was approaching a rough halfway point in my initial formation as a Jesuit: as I approach the fifth anniversary of my entrance into the novitiate, I'm also about five years away from the time when (God and the Society willing) I will be ordained to the diaconate in preparation for ordination to the priesthood. Reflecting on these transitions and turning points, I felt the desire to make my retreat at Georgetown, where I first began to discern my Jesuit call.

In part because I was back where it all started, the importance of mentoring and a sense of place in formation and discernment loomed large in my prayerful reflections during my retreat. The still-recent death of Father Tom King cast a shadow over the experience, both on account of the important role that Tom played in my life and in light of the fact that he had actually agreed to direct me on this retreat; though I found much grace and consolation over the course of the eight days, I often wondered what the retreat would have been like if Tom were leading me through it.

As one who regards photography as a contemplative discipline, I typically take a lot of pictures while I'm on retreat. The above five images are perhaps my favorite of the more than two-hundred photographs I took during my retreat at Georgetown; I'm not sure that I can explain why I chose these particular photos as my favorites, except to say that the elements of light, color and composition in each capture my attention as much now as they did when I took them. I also take delight in some of the small details in each photo, like the two birds circling over Healy (second photo) and the chipped paint and window-unit air conditioners on the dormers of Maguire Hall (fourth photo). I'll leave it to interested readers to notice any common qualities that bind the five images into a cohesive set. At the very least, I hope that these photos may be taken as a creative expression of my gratitude to God for a fine retreat. AMDG.


At 7/31/2009 10:15 AM, Blogger Barbara said...

I often do artwork -- drawing the movements of my soul as well as this time playing with my Japanese calligraphy -- during my 8-day retreats at the Jesuit Centre in Guelph. It is amazing what comes of it, too.

I see the light from a bright and promising heaven shining in all these photos.


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