The summer months provide a perfect time for us catechists and DREs to grow in our own faith lives. Even if you still have fall planning or summer events like a parish VBS on your agenda, it’s important to intentionally set aside time to take advantage of sunny weekends and longer days for deepening your own relationship with Christ. And you don’t need to travel to a retreat center to do this. Weather permitting, take your prayer out into the world, settling in your backyard, a local park, or your favorite coffee shop. Or take a walk through your neighborhood. The following outline can easily be adapted to a day, a weekend, or a week-long series of prayerful reflections for a do-it-yourself summer retreat.
- In preparation for your time of retreat, select a few Scripture passages with which to pray. You might use the daily Mass readings, the Divine Office, or Gospel selections that particularly speak to you.
- Begin your prayer by asking for the grace to make a good retreat. You may wish to use a psalm of thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 100 is one of my favorites.), the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer like the Suscipe of St. Ignatius Loyola, or your own words. Whatever you choose, pray specifically for any particular graces you may need as well as an openness to what God might have to reveal to you during this time of retreat. Ask for the freedom to accept God’s gifts with joy and thanksgiving.
- Meditate on God’s Word, using either Lectio Divina or Ignatian contemplation. I recommend doing this several times during the day if possible, for periods of 20 minutes to an hour. In addition to meditating on the Scripture itself, pay attention to the effects your prayer is having on you physically and emotionally. These can be great indicators of what is happening at the spiritual level as you walk with Christ.
- Journal about your experiences in prayer. After each period of quiet prayer, take time to write down some of your reflections. You may wish to use the following questions to help you focus your journaling. What stands out most about your time with the Scriptures and/or the time spent in the particular space you prayed in? What graces have you received? What challenges have you become aware of? What insights have you gained? What questions remain? Were there any times you felt especially close to God or especially distant? What graces do you still need?
Repetition of the prayer steps is dependent upon how much time you have set aside and how many Scripture passages you’re using for prayer. You may only be able to dedicate a few hours in the morning or afternoon, broken into two or three 20–40 minute sections. You may have set aside a whole day or two with prayer and journaling times set to take place in a few different, prayerful spaces around your home or neighborhood from morning to night. Regardless of the time or place, be sure to end this sacred time with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving. I hope you have a blessed and grace-filled summer!