Guided Retreats

What is an Individually Guided Retreat?

The difference between an Individually Guided Retreat and a preached retreat is that there is no specific input in the Individually Guided Retreat. Retreatants are responsible for their own retreat, and the retreat guide is a companion. Together they try to listen to what the Spirit is saying within the retreatant and to discern the spiritual direction the retreatant is being called into. We suggest a minimum of 2 or 3 complete days (plus arrival and departure day) for an Individually Guided Retreat.

The background of the individually guided retreat is silence: silence to enable retreatants to listen to what God is saying to them. Apart from the daily meeting, for the rest of the day retreatants pray, reflect and generally organise the day so that they can listen deeply to what is going on. This is the ‘subject matter’ of the next day’s meeting with the retreat guide…

The Retreat Guide

The retreat guide is available for about 45 minutes each day of the retreat, and during this time the role of the guide is to listen to what the retreatant has to share about what is going on within. Very often this may mean things that are occupying mind and heart from ordinary life experience. It is not primarily about sharing holy thoughts and ideas, though this may of course be part of it. Nor is the role of the guide to advise or tell the retreatant what to do.

Tips for the Retreatant

  • On beginning your Individually Guided Retreat, try to relax and enjoy the experience of having this period for God and yourself. Notice what comes into your mind.
  • We recommend that retreatants do not bring work to do or books to read, as these are well-known ways to escape from hearing the Word within.
  • Contemplative activities can be very helpful e.g. gardening, walking, drawing, painting, sewing or knitting.
  • During the Individually Guided Retreat pay attention to your dreams and feelings. Write down simply in a notebook anything that seems interesting or important to you.

Doing an Individually Guided Retreat at Dowry House

We are slowly building up a team of retreat guides who can be available for such accompaniment during different times of the year. At the same time we aim to offer certain weekends and weekdays where everyone is usually making silent retreats at the same time.  However, many of the groups coming to Dowry House are on guided retreats which do not entail complete silence.  Guests coming to Dowry House for Individually Guided Retreats have to be able to protect their own silence and space because, occasionally we have other guests on retreat and avoid talkative fellow-guests. We can arrange for meals to be taken separately in silence, but at other times it is up to the guests to preserve their silence.

On the plus side, we have a living community here and a regular rhythm of liturgical prayer which can form the structure of the day for the retreatant and this is a tremendous advantage. The choice is up to each guest who applies. Because of this, the Individually Guided Retreat is not suitable or helpful to everyone. Some people need talking and input as much as—or more than—they need silence. The Individually Guided Retreat is for people who are able to be alone and to deal with what is going on in their inner world, with the retreat guide as their companion.

In addition to the cost of board and lodging we ask for a donation of £15-£20 for each meeting with the retreat guide.

For more information about individually guided retreats, please contact Sr Camilla at dowryhouse@walsingham.org.uk