A typical Ignatian-style retreat is made in silence, and includes a daily conversation with a spiritual director who listens to what you have to say, makes a few comments or asks a few questions designed to help you deepen your experience of prayer during the week, and then suggests some material for you to pray with over the course of the next 24 hours.
Your director might suggest just about anything ~ art, music, poetry, other reading, pretty much any kind of prayer or contemplation at all ~ but the hallmark Ignatian form of prayer involves imaginative interaction with Scripture.
Last year I met with my director late in the morning and we agreed to meet again before supper, since we were just getting started and only had five days. He suggested a few passages of Scripture for me, passages which I'm sure he uses all the time to help someone start a retreat.
When I returned late that afternoon and described my day, he asked, "Why do you think it is that no matter what text you encounter, everything that emerges is about Famous Giant Hospital (where I had just completed the summer chaplaincy program)?"
I looked at him and said, surprised by my discovery, "Because I have been completely traumatized by my summer there."
We talked a bit more and he suggested some more readings, but told me to lay off until the next day. "This has been a little intense," he said "Take a complete break tonight."
Our son died during the night, and I found out the next afternoon and went home that evening.
Words like trauma and intense hardly describe the subsequent eleven months.
And so day after tomorrow I am off for another weeklong retreat. Not to last year's place ~ I can't imagine ever returning there ~ but to Guelph, where I went two years ago.
"What do you desire from this week?" Always one of the first questions.
I have no idea.