Introduction to the retreat

‘In difficult times,’ wrote Blaise Pascal in his Pensées, ‘carry something beautiful in your heart.’ This Lent, with all that has been happening in our world, could that ‘something beautiful’ be hope?

This year, our retreat is based on the new book, ‘Hope and the Nearness of God’, written by Teresa White fcj. The thoughts and ideas from the book will provide material for our prayer and reflection. We are invited to advance along the paths of hope on our journey towards Easter.

To hope is to become aware of God’s providence shaping our lives and guiding us through the ups and downs that are part and parcel of any life. The book draws attention to the arts – music, painting, sculpture, poetry and story – seeing these things as bridges of hope, and in the same light, it ponders on walking, on prayer and meditation, on love and laughter. Any or all of these bridges can, if we allow them, lead to hope. When fear threatens to drown our faith in God, during experiences when we’re tempted to doubt God’s love and care for us, the Holy Spirit renews in us the energy of hope, and makes us more alert to signs of hope that we can easily miss.

Hope, a free gift of God, is a power for good, a blessing beyond price. It crystallizes our longings and brightens our lives. It reminds us that God is at the heart of our world, our universe, and that goodness is stronger than evil. Some of these thoughts and ideas you will find in ‘Hope and the Nearness of God’, the book we are using for our retreat this Lent.

In ‘Fratelli tutti, Pope Francis says, “Hope speaks to us of something deeply rooted in every human heart, independently of our circumstances and historical conditioning. Hope speaks to us of a thirst, an aspiration, a longing for a life of fulfilment, a desire to achieve great things, things that fill our heart and lift our spirit to lofty realities like truth, goodness and beauty, justice and love… Hope is bold; it can look beyond personal convenience, the petty securities and compensations which limit our horizon, and it can open us to grand ideas that make life more beautiful and worthwhile.” (§55)

Some tips for praying with this retreat

Each Monday during Lent, we will release a new session for you to spend the week in prayer and reflection with.

Each session will last about 20 to 25 minutes and will provide a stillness exercise for you to enter into prayer with; a short scripture reading, followed by a section of reflection and finally, an opportunity to talk to the Lord to finish.

We suggest that you make a decision on a time of day you will pray and to try to keep to it as much as you can. This will help you to maintain a prayerful rhythm throughout the season.

Some people find it easier to pray early in the morning - others prefer to pray in the evening or at night. Choose a time that is good for you, a time when you can rest and be thankful, knowing that God welcomes you into his presence.

You might also like to journal as you go along, noting something that particularly stands out to you, or something that stays with you as you.

As you prepare now to pray with session 1, you might like to pray the following words:

O God,
during this time of Lent,
remind us of your nearness.
In your love, be with us;
all our hope is in you.