Sr. Chris Wiltrakis, MSBT recently ended her ministry placement at our retreat center in Alabama, Blessed Trinity Shrine Retreat. For many years Sr. Chris served on the BTSR staff offering individual spiritual direction, leading group retreats, assisting with daily tasks for hosted retreats and overseeing the retreat center’s gift shop, keeping it stocked with a treasure of books, devotional items, spiritual artwork and other resources to support retreatants on their spiritual journey.
Before she enters into a new ministry, Sr. Chris was granted the opportunity for a sabbatical retreat and chose for herself a forty-day, silent retreat. Below is her personal reflection of that time away with God.
My Forty days in Guelph, Ontario
When the Israelites crossed the desert for forty years, it probably was a bit noisy! From October 1 to November 10, 2018 at Loyola Jesuit Retreat House in Guelph, Ontario, Canada we had forty days in silence… and a number of my MSBT sisters and other friends thought this extrovert would never make it! (Well, yes, we did have a couple of brief breaks)
The retreat was based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, back in the 1500’s. His Spiritual Excercises have touched the lives of millions over the centuries and continue to do so all over the world today. For those unable to take the time away for a thirty or forty day retreat, there are formats designed so that these Spiritual Exercises can be done over weeks and months from home, even with a full work and family life schedule. To learn more about this way of integrating the Exercises into your daily life CLICK HERE.
There were twenty participants on the retreat including women and men, Catholic and Protestant, from four continents. Each spiritual director had three retreatants to journey with each day –which was the one daily opportunity I had to talk! I will admit to an expectation of some exceptional religious experience… but that was not what graced my soul. St. Ignatius uses the comparison of water (God’s grace) falling gently into a sponge (our souls) rather than water splashing loudly and perhaps dramatically on a rock.
Cell phones and computers were put aside, of course, and the only book was the New Testament. We journeyed from the Annunciation to the Resurrection, praying with the life of Jesus. There were five hour-long prayer periods each day on a mystery of the life of Christ. It was the fruit from these daily times of prayer that we shared with a director. If that sounds intense, it was!
I learned that I am poor with waiting on the Lord… so I kept trying to give God directions! Yet we often heard during the liturgies to be patient with the slow work of God in transformation- to put on the mind and heart of Jesus is, after all, the work of the Holy Spirit for a lifetime!
I close with this quote from Fr. Arrupe SJ, former leader of the world-wide Jesuits:
Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love with God
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907-1991)
I fell in love with God many, many years ago… what I pray now as the fruit of this special time of retreat is that I will stay in love with the Blessed Trinity and that will decide what I choose all the remaining days of my life.
~ Sr. Chris Wiltrakis, MSBT