By Saundra Macidyn

Not often enough does one have or take the time to just “sit still.”

But the opportunity arose Ash Wednesday at the Lenten Day of Renewal at Christ the King Retreat House and Conference Center in Syracuse.

The agenda, facilitated by CTK Director Chris Spilka, began with a five-minute centered prayer—sitting quietly with no distractions. I truly enjoyed this. We are on the go all the time and rarely take the time to rest in God’s spirit.

People ask: “What are you giving up for Lent?” Instead of just giving up something, I am going to incorporate the five-minute centering prayer during Lent and also continue it in the future.

Asked later for a comment about his retreat, Chris said this in an email:

“As Christians during this Lenten season we are called to go out into the desert. It is there that we are fully exposed as we are in the presence of our heavenly Father. It is certainly a scary place! There are places in our hearts that we try to hide from the Lord. However, it is in the desert that we are forced to detach from the world, speak to our Lord in secret and let him take care of the rest.

“After the temptation of Jesus he begins his ministry. What an example for us as disciples of Jesus! We need detachment from the world and attachment to the Lord in order to freely bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the masses!”

Chris spoke about “detachment.” I personally know that I spend too much time watching TV and checking my iPhone. This is something that I need to cut down on during this season so I can replace it with reading books that help me to grow spiritually; say the Divine Mercy Chaplet or Rosary; and add a few extra days of daily Mass into my lunchtime.

I absolutely loved practicing the Visio Divina. I had heard of Lectio Divina (divine reading) but not Visio Divina. Instead of Scripture, this form of prayer uses visual elements to help set your mind on prayer. It allows God to speak into your heart through the image. I am a visual person, so I found this way of prayer extremely interesting and exciting. 

Chris gave us five Lenten questions during our time of reflection:

What consumes your thinking?

Where are you spending your time?

What are your desires?

What has your relationship with God looked like over the past year?

Have you truly lived the two greatest commandments which are loving God and neighbor in your everyday life?

Ellen Benton, OFS, a parishioner of St. Joseph–St. Patrick Church in Utica, was one of the approximately 15 attendees. She emailed these comments:

“Attending was not something that I had considered until I received a text message from a friend on Saturday morning. She wrote to ask me if I was planning to go because she knows I go to CTK quite frequently especially on First Fridays with Father Donald Karlen. I immediately felt it was the Holy Spirit speaking through her saying, ‘Come away for a while.’

“I registered right away. It was an entirely unique way to begin Lent. I am so happy that I was able to be there. Chris Spilka is a spiritual powerhouse—his passion for God and God’s people is palpable. The Lenten Self Evaluation he prepared for us was extremely helpful in making my time in silent reflection fruitful. Some things to consider as we begin the season of Lent:

“Jesus emptied Himself to do the will of His Father. What is God’s will for you, not just in the long term, but in the very next moment?

“Be aware of the things that bring you closer to or away from God.

“How does God see you as compared to how you see yourself?

“Let joy sustain you amidst your pain!”

The day also included information on reflecting through journaling, a group discussion, a closing prayer and a Mass with Ashes.

Facilitator Chris did an amazing job. He has so much love for the Lord and it just flows out into everyone he meets.

Saundra Macidyn is a parishioner of St. Mary of the Assumption in Minoa.

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