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A week ago we had a ‘solitude retreat’. It was one night spent about an hour outside the city in a beautiful park. Our purpose was to practice some of what we’ve been reading in Henri Nouwen’s *The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry* .

I found the book to be a good reminder of fundamental spiritual disciplines: solitude, silence, prayer, and retreat. Though it’s targeted more toward ministerial staff, I benefited from it and think newcomers to the disciplines would benefit too. You need to like his writing style to really get into it.


While in the park, our city director gave us a packet of famous prayers to contemplate and consider for ourselves. Two prayers in particular stood out to me. I hope to incorporate them into my personal reflection more often and so I’ll shall them here.

The first prayer is from Mother Teresa of Calcutta. It’s as much a prayer as a meditation/teaching. It’s kind of Pauline in the way one thing leads to another:

The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service.
The fruit of service is peace.

The second is similar in its focus on peace. This one comes from St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

In the city, unrest is all too easily felt. Focusing on prayers for peace will help me throughout the year.


Our day during the retreat was broken into three times of silence and solitude.

In the first time, some of us chose to wake early and go into the darkness of the early morning. We walked to a lake and sat on a bit of land that jutted into the water. There, I saw the dawn break.

And there, small clouds rested upon the lake and a gentle breeze would sometimes stir up behind us and push the vapor to and fro. Watching the dance of clouds, I blew and my breath joined the breeze. It was more playful than grand or deep. And I smiled as I saw the clouds move by my breath.

In the second time, I sat on a dock and stared down into the water. Minutes passed and suddenly I noticed fish swimming in and out of the weeds. No doubt the fish had been there the whole time. Only in resting there, though, could I see them.

In the third time, Shannon shared with me a reflection. She had seen the trees with their leaves all changing colors. The Fall in that park was a beautiful array of green, yellow, orange, and red. But she also knew that the beauty was a sign that the trees would soon lose their leaves. And so she felt God say to her, letting go can be beautiful.