As astute readers will have already gleaned from recent entries, I leave tomorrow to make the Spiritual Exercises at Gonzaga Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, Massachusetts. My brother Jonathan - whose posts contain much more insight into "what's what" in our common life than he realizes - offers some important basics on the Long Retreat experience in this post. If you want a more detailed explanation of what the Exercises are, this interview with Father Joe Tetlow, S.J. provides a good introduction. If you want a layman's experiential perspective on the Exercises and have a lot of time on your hands, read Paul Mariani's Thirty Days: On Retreat with the Exercises of St. Ignatius. I read and appreciated Mariani's book before I entered, but in recommending it to others I should offer the caveat that Thirty Days relates one person's experience of the Exercises - in other words, don't think that I or any of my fellow novices are going to have the same retreat experience Mariani relates, because the only person who could have that experience is Paul Mariani.
Though we're expected to spend five hours daily in prayer during the Exercises, we'll also have time to do other things like reading. With that in mind, I'll be bringing along some books. Three of these deal with Jesuit saints: the biography Ignatius of Loyola: The Pilgrim Saint by J. Ignacio Tellechea Idigoras; another biography, Jean de Brebeuf by Rene Latourelle, S.J.; and the omnibus Jesuit Saints and Martyrs by Joseph N. Tylenda, S.J. I'll also be bringing along James Boswell's classic Life of Samuel Johnson, which I've had for years but have never found the time to read - hopefully in the silence of the retreat I'll be able to find a little spare time to get through it. Another thing I could be reading is letters, provided I get some - as Jonathan notes, we will be allowed at some point during the retreat to receive correspondence from outside, though concern over being unduly influenced during the retreat by external forces makes me somewhat ambivalent about the prospect of getting letters. I'm not going to encourage people to send me mail, but I also won't discourage you if you really feel compelled to send me something. If you're that interested, get the address for Eastern Point off Jonathan's blog. What I'll need most during the retreat isn't letters, however, but prayers - hopefully you'll offer me some of those. In any case, as you may have surmised by now I will not be blogging during the retreat, so regular posting on Novitiate Notes will resume on or around February 7th. À bientôt 'til then. AMDG.