Poringland retreat offers Positive Penance at start of Lent

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Poringland retreat offers Positive Penance at start of Lent

‘Positive Penance’ is the title of a retreat day which the Diocese will be holding at the Our Lady of the Annunciation church in Poringland, near Norwich, in preparation for Lent. Margaret Mary McFadyen, who will be leading the event on February 15, reports.

During Lent, the Church encourages us to unite ourselves to the mystery of Jesus in the desert, to act against the desire of the flesh, of the eyes and the pride in riches by fasting, giving alms and prayer.

The practice of such penance may feel judicial and be difficult to maintain for the whole season of Lent. In “The Spiritual Exercises”, St. Ignatius writes about the practice of penance in the Tenth Addition, and the discussion is often passed over uncomfortably and put into the context of his time.

Ignatius presents the idea of penance as a form of desire for more in our relationship with God and he makes it personal. He says:

“Now since God our Lord knows our nature infinitely better, when we make changes of this kind, He often grants each one the grace to understand what is suitable for him.”

My intention is to provide the time, space and stimulation for each one to notice the desires and motivations for their feelings and actions; to notice the direction of the movement in those desires, whether they are towards God (spiritual consolation) or away from God (spiritual desolation); the latter being identified as inordinate desire; and, with the grace and help of God, to choose the most pertinent of our own inordinate desires and resolve to amend it or them.

The resolve to amend will form the basis of our chosen Lenten practice, which will be personal in the context of our own relationship with God and drawn from the desire for more in that relationship. Fuelled by this desire, may we find sustenance to maintain our Lenten observance for the duration, and allow it to impact a deeper change in our lives beyond Lent.

The process will be facilitated with two short presentations, The Examen prayer, Guided Imaginative Contemplations, Personal reflection and paired and group sharing. People will be encouraged to share only what they are comfortable with, and this is to remain confidential within the context of the person or group it is shared in.

Our Lady of The Annunciation has excellent facilities. There is a beautiful church, with the Thirkettle Room attached, and it is here that the first presentation will be given at 10am. The Conference Centre has further space and a kitchen, where refreshments will be available from 9.30am.

There is Mass in the church at 9.00am, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation will be available throughout the day. The event will conclude at 4pm.

You are asked to bring a packed lunch, a notebook and a pen.

There may also be access to the gardens, weather permitting. The site has plenty of parking.

Margaret Mary McFadyen (pictured above) is Diocesan Representative for the Bishops Conference Spirituality Committee

You can contact her on mmmcfadyen@gmail.com and learn more on her guided spirituality blog www.sunflowerseedspirituality.com