14 January 2021

Spiritual direction

Written by Rosa Lewis

In essence, the Internship year is time set aside to grow in self-knowledge. So far, the year has been a whirlwind of studying, travelling, laughing and Brexit, let alone getting to grips with the realities of everyday working life. The busy year of work and study is punctuated by regular spiritual direction and retreats. These moments of reflection are vital in such a rich and packed programme. The interns are accompanied throughout the year by the wonderful Laudato Si’ Community. Ruth, Fr. Jim and Fr. Dushan are a group of Jesuits who are interpreting and living out the values which are espoused in the Holy Father’s encyclical of the same name.

The Laudato Si’ Community accompany us in every sense of the word (indeed Fr. Dushan is coming on the trip to Rome!). In their role as Spiritual Directors we are able to divulge any issues, spiritual or otherwise that we feel we would like to discuss. The spiritual direction not only enriches what is already an incredible year but provides the opportunity for us to fully appreciate the significance of the moments that we are experiencing.

As Jesuits, the Laudato Si’ Community is suffused with Ignatian spirituality. This nuanced, thoughtful and reflective way of assessing both prayer and daily life has been transformative for each of the interns. What has been truly outstanding is to see how much the times of Spiritual Direction have enabled us to know ourselves better. Surprising decisions have been reached through careful reflection and becoming better attuned to the ways in which God speaks to us in our lives. Each of us has had very different experiences of spiritual direction, and I have been amazed by the breakthroughs that we have each had.

We undertake three retreats throughout the year, the first and last at Saint Bueno’s retreat centre and the middle at the new SPEC retreat house in Pinner. We also have days of recollection at the Laudato Si’ house in Clapham Common. It has been such a blessing to experience the internship with a bunch of people who have grown into firm friends and I believe that the retreats have really bonded the intern group together. The time on retreat is given over to simply being with one another in the presence of God, and that is really precious.

Saint Beuno’s is nothing short of idyllic. The retreat centre sits upon a hill, surveying the beautiful countryside of Rhyll in North Wales. The building was once inhabited by the great poet and Jesuit, Gerard Manly Hopkins, and the surrounding nature inspired some of his most loved works. It is in Bueno’s that we were first shown the mechanics of Ignatian spirituality. A key element of Ignatian spirituality is choice, freedom and attention to the ways in which you are being moved. Buenos, in a funny sort of way, embodies this – the centre is full of hidden nooks and crannies, libraries, chapels and even an art room. Only when I had so much time to fill with whatever I wanted to, did I realise what a luxury this truly is!

Our mid-year retreat was similarly refreshing. Taking time to come together and recapitulate on the year so far was much needed. We have each had such different experiences of the internship due to our placements, so was great to come together and take the time to appreciate how far we had each come as individuals and a collective.

One of the most treasured parts of the accompaniment that we have received from the Laudato Si’ Community is the abiding sense that each of us will take forward the insights and lessons from our time with them into the future. Learning the rudiments of Ignatian spirituality has made us each more emotionally and spiritually literate and this has engendered a shift of perspective in each of us.