“Prayer never leaves us without sweetness. It is honey that flows into the souls and makes all things sweet. When we pray properly, sorrows disappear like snow before the sun.” These words of Saint John Vianney provide a beautiful image of prayer that many hope to experience in their own lives. Campus Ministry’s new Micro Retreat Series offers Notre Dame students the opportunity to fill their souls with the sweetness of prayer. These micro retreats are short times of prayer designed to help students reflect amidst their busy lives.
Only 45 minutes long, each micro retreat focuses on different forms of prayer. Student coordinators teach the participants prayer practices such as meditation and journaling, the Liturgy of Hours, and praying with Scripture. After the students have tried the form of prayer for themselves, they reflect on the experience. Each retreat in the series is offered twice a day: 2:00-2:45 p.m. and 7:30-8:15 p.m. The retreats take place in common areas easily accessible for students, like the LaFortune Student Center and DeBartolo Hall.
“The micro retreat series seeks to help students integrate their spiritual lives into their daily lives and their daily lives into their spiritual lives,” Campus Ministry coordinator Brogan Ryan, a Holy Cross seminarian and theology graduate student, told the Rover. Students might not have time for a full-length weekend retreat, so mini retreats provide a way to strengthen their relationship with God by pausing in the middle of their day.
Last year, Campus Ministry conducted a spirituality survey of Notre Dame students and found that the majority of students wanted to develop their spiritual lives on a daily basis yet found it difficult to dedicate the time.
A student coordinator of the retreats, Devin Velasco, told the Rover that the retreats already have been a great success. He also stressed the importance of daily faith, as he remarked to the Rover, “Faith is with us all the time, and it is just a matter of recognizing that. These retreats show us that spirituality is not a separate factor in our lives, but is a part of all the pieces that make us who we are.”
This past fall and winter, Campus Ministry also offered freshmen a new seven-hour retreat, Tender, Strong, and True. Although different from the micro retreats, this retreat also aimed at helping Notre Dame freshmen take time to reflect and build their spiritual lives. As in the micro retreats, students spent some time in Coleman Morse Hall, learning various forms of prayer, including “Lectio Divina” (praying with Scripture).
Since the retreat took place on a Friday night on campus—rather than being an entire weekend away from campus—it provided the opportunity for students to meet new people, assess their freshman year, and, most importantly, rejuvenate a loving relationship with God through prayer.
Andrea Desilets, a freshman in Walsh Hall, told the Rover that the freshman retreat helped her understand faith in the context of college life. “It’s easy to go on thinking about and living your faith in the same way when you come to college, but in reality, the constant changes and growth that come with this transition should be accompanied by growth in your spiritual life,” she said.
These micro retreats are designed for anyone interested in developing his or her prayer life, or simply learning about different prayer practices. No prior experience with prayer is necessary, as the student coordinators lead the group through the entire process. Campus Ministry has received positive feedback from students, an encouraging sign for the continuance of Notre Dame’s strong faith community. As Velasco noted, “Our goal is that students see that their spiritual lives do not have to be separate from their everyday lives.”
With Holy Week still fresh in everyone’s minds, Campus Ministry’s micro retreats invite us to renew faith in our daily lives. Through this series, Notre Dame students can deepen their relationships with God in a guided and meditative hour of prayer, which seems to have instructed many on prayer’s ability to give the sweetness of peace to the soul.
Sarah Ortiz is a freshman living in Lewis Hall and studying PLS. She and several others had many fun adventures while waiting to get seats at the Easter Vigil Mass, including fighting off a squirrel and attempting to read Les Misérables. She can be reached at email@example.com.