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My retreat from technology

One of the best things I ever did to nurture my relationship with God was to attend a four-day silent retreat. Let me explain.

I signed up for a retreat with Chemin Neuf (meaning “New Way”), a stream of the Catholic Charismatic tradition. The retreat was to be held  at Sclerder Abbey in Looe, Cornwall. The four other retreatants and I were hosted by Father Sebastian and Sisters Laure and Jacqueline, wonderful people of the Lord. On the first evening we had dinner together (talking permitted) and looked forward to the four days where we would observe silence for much of the time. We also took a break from online technology.

The daily pattern started in the morning with a short period of prayer and worship led by our hosts in the chapel. Then we had breakfast in silence, where we learnt to anticipate others’ needs, such as passing over the milk or sugar without mentioning a word. We devised a system of nods and signals! 
Mid-morning, we had a teaching session led by our hosts. This involved them speaking to us and we could ask questions and engage in discussion. From there we left in silence and then spent some time in solitude practising the Daily Examen.  

From there we left in silence and then spent some time in solitude practising the Daily Examen.  

Over lunch, we didn’t enter conversation. However, we took it in turns to read Mother Teresa’s autobiography out loud. What an impressive life of service she led! During the afternoons, there was time for prayer and the opportunity to volunteer in the Abbey’s grounds. We also had a one-to-one spiritual direction session, and I met with Father Seb. Obviously, this involved conversation! Over the four sessions, we covered a great deal, and I was able to be very open about my life story. Father Seb was a skilled listener; he had some tremendous insights and I found the times we had together to be a significant support. It gave me thoughts about my future direction in life.

Before dinner, we had another time of prayer and worship. Over dinner, we continued our pattern of listening to Mother Teresa’s autobiography. During the evenings, we sat together in the lounge and read. The daily pattern continued until the final evening when we chatted over dinner together and discussed the things we had learned from the retreat.

For me, it was a great way to draw closer to the Lord and hear His voice. As you will appreciate, we were not in silence all the time, but the usual small talk of daily life didn’t take place, nor access to technology, and it gave God space to speak. We also developed a better awareness of others. As a celibate person living alone, I really appreciated the company, even in the silence. I didn’t miss using my phone since my focus was elsewhere.
It was a memorable few days and I would definitely do another silent retreat. 

The Daily Examen

The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work throughout our entire experience.
This is a version of the five-step Daily Examen that St. Ignatius practised:

  1. Become aware of God’s presence.
  2. Review the day with gratitude.
  3. Pay attention to your emotions.
  4. Choose one feature of the day and pray about it.
  5. Look towards tomorrow.

This article was originally published in the summer 2022 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.

Download the summer 2022 edition of Ascend