St Beuno’s is a large residential retreat house near St Asaph, North Wales, well-known for its silence and Ignatian spirituality. St Ignatius emphasised a Christian spirituality which finds God in our experience, and our September Soulful Saturday showed us what this means. One of the participants gives a personal outline of the day here...
Although across the border in Wales, St Beuno’s is just a forty-minute drive from Chester. Given that St Beuno’s draws people from across the world to its retreats, we were delighted to welcome members of their Outreach Team to run a day for us here in Chester. Ged and Clare led us through aspects of Ignatian Spirituality in a very helpful and gentle way. Together we explored different methods of personal prayer: lectio divina (slow engagement with the words of Scripture), imaginative contemplation of Scripture and the examen (a reflection on our experiences).
Our first spiritual exercise was lectio divina based on Psalm 102. We were guided to prepare ourselves for entering into this prayer. The psalm was read aloud three times and we read it slowly to ourselves whilst being open to God leading us through prayer and prompting us with particular sentences or phrases. Each person will be drawn to the words that mean something special and personal to them. Having exited the prayer slowly, we reviewed our experience in reflection and shared the parts that had come to us.
The second spiritual exercise was imaginative contemplation of Scripture. The story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well was slowly read to us a couple of times, with gentle prompts to help us imagine the scene and perhaps enter it ourselves. Then some stayed in the room in silent reflection, while others ventured to some other space - including the sculpture of Jesus and the woman in the cloister garden. It was a special experience, engaging imaginatively and personally with the Gospel story.
After lunch we were guided through the spiritual exercise of the examen: to review the day with the Lord. This centuries-old daily review of our experience is gently structured to help us notice the things for which we are glad and the things which might need help or attention. We recognized how helpful – and important - this could be.
To have such helpful presentation and then to experience what we had learned was such a rewarding time, particularly to share in a group situation. My own impression is that we had some amazingly powerful silent times as we were engrossed in these spiritual exercises.
At the close, we were reminded of the value of imaginative encounters with God, of the mystery of God and the dignity and mystery of all people, and to seek to experience the presence of God everywhere.
So many thanks to Ged and Clare for such a special day.