5 at-home retreats to nourish your spirit during summer vacation
By Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur
Summer provides a wonderful opportunity to spend some time nurturing your spiritual life. While going on pilgrimage or away to a retreat is a great blessing, not everyone has that opportunity. Making an at-home retreat can enable you to return to your classroom in the fall renewed, refreshed, and ready to teach.
Have you ever consecrated yourself to Mary? A Marian consecration means that you are turning your life over to Mary with the understanding that she will in turn lead you to her Son. Fr. Michael Gaitley provides a 33-day preparation for this consecration in 33 Days to Morning Glory. Fr. Gaitley offers five weeks of reflections, one each on the lives and teachings of St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II, with a final week of review. During the summer, you can begin on July 13 to consecrate yourself on the Feast of the Assumption (August 15), July 20 to prepare for the Queenship of Mary (August 22), or August 6 to be ready for the Nativity of Mary (September 8).
Do you have an artistic bent? Have you ever wanted to learn how to create a sacred icon? Drawing Closer to Christ: A Self-Guided Icon Retreat by Joseph Malham offers seven days of reflections and instructions on creating an icon of Christ Pantocrator, Christ the All-Powerful. The reflections are focused on the seven days of the Biblical creation story and address the topics of theology, iconography, and creativity. Creating this icon of Christ provides the opportunity to learn a new skill while meditating on the mystery of the incarnation.
Would you like to reflect on the big questions of life? St. Francis de Sales is the patron saint of Catholic writers, the Catholic press, the deaf, journalists, and adult education. In 1609 he wrote An Introduction to the Devout Life. Fr. John Burns provides an updated version in Lift Up Your Heart: A 10-Day Retreat with St. Francis de Sales. According to Doctor of the Church de Sales, devotion “is simply true love of God.” But that love does not always come easy. For most of us, it requires “a radical reordering of priorities and relationships.” These ten meditations “represent, in their totality, a journey of the soul with the highest of hoped-for outcomes: right relationship with God and right understanding of one’s purpose.” The meditations deal with finding meaning in life: Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? What happens to me after I die? Fr. Burns also includes the original meditations by de Sales for anyone who would like to utilize them.
Do you want to reflect on your vocation as teacher? Lord, You Know I Love You is a discernment retreat offered by Jennifer Fitz. This retreat is unique in that it focuses on vocational mission rooted in love of God. Fitz offers reflections and questions for both group and personal use. The retreat invites you to turn your life over to God and to fortify yourself for the next spiritual battle that will come your way. It can help you focus on your mission and the role that you play within your larger educational institution.
Would you like the opportunity to rediscover a familiar prayer? Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary, edited by Sarah Reinhard, offers 42 days of reflections. Reinhard, a convert to the faith, describes the Hail Mary as her “blankie prayer”
“Just as my children cling to their worn-soft, faded blankies, so I cling to my Blessed Mother’s skirt through this prayer. When my heart aches, I cry out a Hail Mary. When I need to be held in my sorrow, it’s a Hail Mary that comes out. When I’m worried or troubled, the words I can’t find on my own shape up as a Hail Mary.”
Sarah invited Catholic writers to each ponder one word of the Hail Mary. The result is a collection of beautiful reflections and meditations. Each reflection includes a prayer of its own.
Each of these resources provides the opportunity for you to take a few extra minutes each day to focus on God and on your spiritual development so that you can be ready for whatever the new school year has in store.
Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, MAAT is editor of TodaysCatholicHomeschooling.com and is a homeschooling mother of three children.
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