Finbarr Lynch (of Manresa House) and Gerry Whelan (of the Gregorian) were part of a team who gave a retreat to about thirty seminarians and priests of the English College in Rome, September 27-October 5. The directed Ignatian retreat, a relatively new departure for the English College, was given in a holiday house at Lake Albano outside Rome that is located near to Castel Gandolfo, the Summer residence of the Pope. Our picture shows Pope Benedict looking across the lake towards the holiday house. This retreat was held before the academic year at the Gregorian where most of the seminarians study. In recent years, the English College has not always offered silent, directed, Ignatian retreats to its seminarians, but has a growing interest in doing this now. Some of the retreat directors were relatively new to retreat giving of this kind, so Finbarr and Gerry offered supervision to some of the others; this was conducted both individually and in a convivial group meeting each evening (supervision focuses on how the director is feeling about the directing and about general questions of the dynamic of a retreat. In this way the confidentiality of the director’s relationship with individual directees is respected).
Finbarr was very much the wisdom figure in the group meetings, and the group was aware of benefitting from the accumulated wisdom of the spiritual director training courses offered by Manresa House in Dublin. By showing a renewed interest in Ignatian retreats in this manner, the English College is getting back in touch with an older tradition in their history. For example, during meal-times there was spiritual reading where one person read from a book while the others ate in silence. The reading was from a book about the early history of the English College during the 1500s and 1600s and included reference to how the Jesuits provided the staffing for the college during those centuries and gave retreats to students, some of whom would be martyred back in England.