30 days in paradise

We’re back from retreat! We’ve been back a week already, taking time to settle back into our regular community life routine. It has been slow going for me. The retreat was an incredible experience, filled with so many gifts and loving revelations from God, and I’ve been trying to hang on to those feelings and graces this week back in the real world. Consequently, I’m not quite ready yet to share a lot about the retreat just yet on this blog. I still need time to reflect and ‘appropriate’, as it is termed. Time to come to a fuller understanding of how my relationship with God changed during the retreat, and believe me, it sure has changed.

So with that teaser for future posts, I offer you a selection of photos from the retreat centre, a true paradise. Set in the outskirts of Quezon City, Sacred Heart Retreat Centre was like entering a whole other world. Peaceful, beautiful, and gracious. I’m posting photos of the retreat grounds today, and I’ll follow up with photos of the gorgeous plant life and the entertaining wildlife in the next few days.

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A warm welcome from Jesus to all those arriving at Sacred Heart.

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The cloistered wing of the retreat centre (i.e. retreatants not welcome), home to the Jesuit novices and their novice masters.

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Rear courtyard with a shady sitting area. A lovely place to sit in the rain.

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The kitchen, on the ground floor, where our many meals were prepared. Breakfast, morning merienda (snack), lunch, afternoon merienda, and dinner.

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The beautiful fountain in the courtyard.

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Swings are set up throughout the property to help retreatants relax and meditate.

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The tree house! A great place for bird watching, contemplation, and people watching.

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We were so lucky to have this beautiful pool at our disposal. It was a treat to float around and pray or swim laps surrounded by gorgeous tropical flowers and trees.

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Mary and Joseph kept watch over us.

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A painting in one of the dining halls. St. Ignatius of Loyola prayed to Mary to ask her to intercede to God to place him with her son. This painting shows the Trinity’s embrace of St. Ignatius and Mary’s intercession.

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The Jesuit cemetery on the retreat grounds, a beautiful and peaceful place to pray.

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I enjoyed looking at the gravestones and I have to admit that I was overjoyed to find someone with the same birthday as me. Each day I walked to the cemetery to greet my ‘Birthday Brother’ – born on the same day, only 86 years apart!

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Fr. Thomas Green, SJ wrote a number of books on Ignatian spirituality and prayer.

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I am currently reading a book by Fr. John Carroll, SJ  -a collection of editorials he wrote for the Philippines Enquirer on politics and social justice in the Philippines. It’s a fantastic book.

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Recreational opportunities abounded – here’s the basketball court.

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And the badminton court. (I forgot to take a photo of the tennis backboard.)

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And bicycles!

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Strickly for females.

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And all of the equipment a retreatant could need.

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A bit of nightlife at the retreat centre. Jesus all lit up.

 

Newly minted novice

Last Thursday, December 10, 2015, the feast day of Our Lady of Loreto, I was received as a novice to the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loretto Sisters) here in Toronto.

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As the day approached, I felt a mixture of joy and fear. Joy for this next step in my discernment and formation with the Institute, but also fear of the unknown and all of the newness that lies ahead when I go to the Philippines.

To prepare myself to be received, I spent time in prayer and reflection, using a booklet on consecrated life as my guide. I really only used the first couple of chapters of the guide, focused on the heart and mind of the consecrated person (identifying the call to religious life) and the response of the consecrated person (saying yes to the call). These alone provided plenty of fuel for reflection.

Experiencing a call to religious life is mysterious. It is hard to explain the drive and longing felt by someone called to religious life: the desire to give fully of oneself in the service of God and God’s people, and the profound desire to know God. I find it very difficult to express how much I long to know God, to understand God’s plan for the world. I have so many questions for God. I also feel a deep desire to serve God by caring for all people. And over time, I feel more and more drawn to life in community. I pondered all of these things as I waited to be received.

During the reception, I felt peaceful and joyful. I was moved by the joy of the sisters who participated in the reception, and I felt (and feel!) so grateful to be part of this community. There is so much life and love here.

I received the Loretto cross (which I happily and proudly wear) and gifts to help with my discernment during novitiate: a bible, the IBVM Constitutions, and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. All of these will come with me to the Philippines and help to guide me.

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So now, as a newly minted novice, I am trying to live fully each day with the community here and love these sisters as much as I can before I depart. And I am continuing to pester God, to try to know him better, and be open to the gifts and graces he has given me.

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Venerable Mary Ward, foundress of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us.

 

 

 

Malcolm Guite

Blog for poet and singer-songwriter Malcolm Guite

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