Posted by: Christine | April 17, 2011

Back from a Retreat

I just spent this past weekend at Villa Maria Guadalupe, a retreat house in Stamford, CT run by the Sisters of Life.  What an amazing time it was, with so many blessings from God!

The theme of the retreat was Ignatian Meditation, and it was led by Fr. Greg Cleveland, OMV, who is a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary (OMV), who are dedicated, among other charisms, to the formation of the laity and the clergy and the Spiritual Exercise of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Over the past few months, I’d been reading Discerning the Will of God: An Ignatian Introduction to Prayer by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV.  Discernment is the process of making a decision about an important personal matter in light of God’s love and His purpose for our life.  This book introduces the reader to what discernment actually is, why it may be called for,  the foundation necessary for true discernment to take place, as well as a step-by-step guide to St. Ignatius’ discernment process, along with a great many examples from lay and religious.    For me, it seemed that Fr. Gallagher especially notes that the individual discerning must pray for a heart disposed to do God’s will, and that a will open to God is a gift from Him.  Additionally, he recommends attempting discernment under the guidance of a spiritual director or mature, prayerful friend.

During the retreat, Fr. Cleveland gave six short conferences/talks about different aspects of Ignatian prayer, primarily involving sacred scripture.  He began the weekend by reminding the retreatants of the importance of being in touch with the desires of our hearts, because that is where we often find the direction in which God is pulling us.  Next, Father discussed how we can use meditation on scripture (using our intellect to think through the Gospels and open our minds to God) as well as contemplation (using our imagination and five senses to make ourselves more fully present in the mysteries of Christ in the Gospels) in order to enrich our prayer lives.  He also gave us some suggestions given my St. Ignatius as to the structure of our prayer, so that we may reach ever more deeply into the Heart of Him who made us.

Later, Fr. Cleveland gave a discussion on discernment of spirits, which is the ongoing process of learning to understand the fluctuating  feelings of consolation and desolation in our hearts, and how we can use this knowledge to discover God’s will for us in the discernment process.  This morning, there was a brief conference in which Father gave us some practical suggestions on how we can incorporate prayer time into our everyday lives.

Mass this morning began at 10:30 am on the outdoor steps of Villa Maria Guadalupe, and it was a beautiful liturgy!  (I am thankful that God gave me the strength to stand through it all despite my typical lack of endurance – praise God!).  I prayed and thanked Our Lord for bringing me closer to Him throughout the weekend, not only through the formal preaching and liturgy, but also through the quiet times of reading, prayer, reflection, and enjoyment of nature.  I remember that I am weak, but He is strong, so nothing is impossible with Him.


The Villa Maria Guadalupe is owned by the Knights of Columbus, and is operated by the Sisters of Life for major events and retreats for religious and lay people.  It sits on beautiful grounds complete with blooming trees and singing birds, surrounded by nature and a quiet residential neighborhood.  For more information about the Sisters of Life or upcoming events, please see their website here.

For more books by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV, click here.

Holy Mary, pray for us.  St. Joseph, pray for us.



  1. Wow, this sounds like a powerful retreat! If possible, could I borrow that book? I apparently discerned something important completely wrong and have been struggling with that realization for a few months.

    Your pictures are beautiful!

    Have a blessed Holy Week, Christine!

  2. I would be thrilled to lend the book to you, except it’s not mine. I borrowed it through InterLibrary Loan (and actually I over-renewed it even though someone else requested to borrow it through the system) so I have to return it tomorrow. But, after reading it, I’d say this book would’ve been worth the purchase, if that’s any help. Sorry, Trista. Next time I will recommend one I own.

    I will pray for you and your decision-making. My own discernment journey is still in it’s fledgling stage, but now I have a better grasp of how I should approach this, and also this reading and retreat has quelled my fears that I’m doing miserably (because I’m not).

    God bless you!

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