Olivia Hastie ’22
One of the many life-giving experiences at Holy Cross is the Spiritual Exercises Retreat. Students from all faith backgrounds and communities sign up to partake in this experience because it offers a peaceful environment to rest and reflect. A brief description of the Exercises as written on the Holy Cross Retreats webpage:
“What do you desire? What is God inviting you to? How do you integrate your faith with decisions you make in your life? What are the movements of your heart? Do you desire freedom and inner peace? An adapted version of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, this five-day silent retreat is an opportunity for reflection and prayer. In silence, you will be given the opportunity to reflect more deeply about your faith, the power of God’s love for you and your relationship to others. In addition, time for personal prayer and reflection and liturgies, thematic talks are given by the Chaplain retreat directors to help assist in your faith journey.”
This five day silent retreat offers students an opportunity to unplug, unwind, and discern where their Holy Cross education is taking them. As a sophomore making lots of decisions like where to study abroad, what to major in, and where my Holy Cross education is taking me, I thought fall break would be the perfect time to attend. I had also never been to the Thomas P. Joyce ‘59 Contemplative Center and was feeling a little bit left out of that part of my Holy Cross experience. I’m so glad I ended up deciding to participate.
I knew a little bit about the Exercises from classes I had taken and my general knowledge of the Jesuits. Though challenging, the silence was a beautiful way to experience discernment and contemplation. I’ll also add that throughout the five days, each day contains four sessions where you hear and learn about the actual exercises of Ignatius. Each day participants also have the chance to meet with a Spiritual Director to talk about where he or she is in her faith journey and what he or she is looking to accomplish on the retreat. Realistically it’s not complete silence. There’s also lots of individual activities, like painting, hiking, and playing instruments.
The retreat also takes you through the Jesuit concept of finding and knowing God. Over the course of the five days, I experienced several moments where my vision of God changed. Instead of seeing God as a higher power, I started to see God as a friend walking with me through life. This is one of the many revelations I experienced on retreat. Other people go on the retreat to begin their relationship with God, and others go to be still. It was particularly moving to watch the sunrise each morning and remind myself that there is something greater than I out there. The experience was overwhelming life giving, reminding me to take time to be still and be reflective.
Overall, it was an exceptionally moving experience. Students from any faith background can have a moving experience of the exercises. Spending five days unplugged and silent helped me not only grow in faith but grow in my own self-knowledge. I took time to think about what the future may hold and how I want to spend my next two years at Holy Cross. I’m looking forward to hopefully going again senior year and using the time to pray and think about my own life in a different way.