How does a Reader’s Retreat with Joan Chittister look? In the one held in 2016 at Peek ‘n Peak Resort in Clymer, NY, it looked like this. Joan read aloud a story from one of her latest books,Two Dogs and a Parrot. One by one participants read aloud from the reflections that followed each story until they came to a place where they questioned the text, needed clarification, or wanted to comment on it. At that point the reader engaged Joan in conversation about the passage while the others listened and then could join the conversation, too. This was the format for the six sessions of the retreat that were centered in Benedictine prayer and included shared meals and leisure time. “You only cover a handful of chapters during the retreat,” Sister Joan explained, “but you really read them. You get under the words and wrestle with the ideas and what they mean in your life, now.”
The dates and location for the 2017 Reader's Retreat have not yet been determined. Watch this site for future updates.
Single room registration: $635
Double room registration (per person): $560
Sister Mary Lou blogged from the retreat in 2015: "I am at the 12th annual Reader’s Retreat with Joan Chittister. We limit the participants to 38 and this year the retreat was filled in 45 minutes. We have people from Canada and 13 states, including a handful from California.
This morning we started with Chapter 1 and when the reader came to these lines she stopped:
“The darkness of the soul is no less spiritually punishing than is the loss of physical light to the psyche. We talk about faith but cannot really tolerate the thought of it. It’s light we want, not shadow, certainly not questions. The aphotic, the place without images, is no less an attack on faith and hope than those periods in life when nighttime brings nothing but unclarity, nothing but fear. Where am I going? the soul want to know. When will this be over? the mind wants to know. How can I get out of this sightless place I’m in? the heart demands.”
Then the reader began to describe a physical depression she experienced this winter because of the heavy and long snows and the reality of light deprivation on mental health. "Any other depressions?" Sister Joan asked. One talked about a clinical depression she underwent as she grappled with reclaiming a sense of self other than wife and mother. A third described a functional depression brought about by a feeling of displacement at work and misdiagnosis of a physical situation. A fourth spoke of ecclesial darkness and the struggle of remaining in a church that crushed her Vatican II heart. A fifth talked about darkness as blessing and described her ministry at a Sweat Lodge where people willingly immerse themselves in total darkness—it’s so dark that you can’t even see your hand in front of your face—to battle the inner demons. My job is to be “light” in the Sweat Lodge, she said. If the darkness gets unbearable, people know that I am there to help. People scream out all kind of terrors, she said, but can tolerate any darkness as long as they know the light is near.
Because Benetvision sponsors the retreats, I have attended all of them. I never tire of the retreats because they ring so true. At least once in your life, you should hope for an experience such as this. A time where you can speak from your heart and weep all your suppressed tears and know that you are not judged and that what you say is safe and honored. It is always a miracle that in less than 48 hours a kind of community forms.
And then you really do see “the secret beauty of their hearts…the core of their reality…the person that each one is in God’s eyes.” And you really are called to “fall down and worship one another.”