In speaking with a friend about his travel plans before Christmas, I asked him whether he was apprehensive about his upcoming drive or looking forward to his planned event. “Both,” he replied. He was looking forward to the event but not the eight hours he was planning to spend in the car.
While discussing the drag of long car rides with little to do, I wondered how this could be changed from a “grind” to a spiritual experience. It occurred to me – why not make this drive a retreat?
So, for those driving somewhere this Advent, try making your travels a spiritual journey. This retreat is designed to guide participants through a transformative spiritual experience centered around the Advent season. Drawing inspiration from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and the Sunday readings for Advent 2023, the retreat aims to deepen participants’ understanding of the Advent themes of hope, peace, joy, and love.
All you need is a Bible and a seeking heart…
Hour 1: Encounter the Desire for God
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 64:1-9
Catholic Reflection: Reflect on the yearning for God’s presence expressed in the passage. Consider the desires within your own heart.
Lectio Divina Exercise: Read the passage slowly. Meditate on a word or phrase that stands out. What is God saying to you?
Meditation Prayer: “Lord, reveal to me the deepest desires of my heart. Help me to be open to Your presence and guidance throughout this retreat.”
Hour 2: Embrace Hope in the Darkness
Scripture Reading: Mark 13:33-37
Catholic Reflection: Contemplate the call to be watchful and attentive. How can you stay vigilant in hope during challenging times?
Lectio Divina Exercise: Engage with the passage, focusing on what it means to be vigilant. What is God inviting you to be aware of in your life?
Meditation Prayer: “Lord, in the darkness of life, may I find the light of hope. Grant me the grace to stay watchful and attentive to Your coming.”
Hour 3: Cultivate Peace Within
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10
Catholic Reflection: Reflect on the vision of peace depicted in the passage. How can you contribute to the realization of God’s peace in your life and the world?
Lectio Divina Exercise: Immerse yourself in the words. What images or feelings arise as you contemplate the peace described by Isaiah?
Meditation Prayer: “Prince of Peace, guide me in cultivating inner peace. Help me become an instrument of Your peace in the world.”
Hour 4: Joyful Anticipation
Scripture Reading: John 1:6-8, 19-28
Catholic Reflection: Ponder the joyous anticipation of John the Baptist. How can you prepare joyfully for the coming of Christ?
Lectio Divina Exercise: Read and reflect on John’s testimony. What resonates with you, and how can you prepare the way for Christ in your life?
Meditation Prayer: “Lord, grant me the joy of anticipation. May my heart be a welcoming place for Your presence.”
Hour 5: Love Incarnate
Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38
Catholic Reflection: Contemplate Mary’s response to God’s call. How can you embody a similar openness to God’s love in your life?
Lectio Divina Exercise: Immerse yourself in Mary’s encounter with the angel. What is God inviting you to say ‘yes’ to in your journey of faith?
Meditation Prayer: “Mary, model of love and obedience, help me say ‘yes’ to God’s plan for my life. May I embody Your love in the world.”
Hour 6: Preparing the Way
Scripture Reading: Mark 1:1-8
Catholic Reflection: Reflect on John the Baptist’s role in preparing the way. How can you clear the path for Christ in your heart?
Lectio Divina Exercise: Engage with the passage, focusing on John’s message. What steps can you take to prepare for the coming of Christ?
Meditation Prayer: “Lord, guide me in preparing the way for Your presence. Help me to remove any obstacles hindering Your entrance into my heart.”
Hour 7: Christ is Born in Us
Scripture Reading: Luke 2:1-14
Catholic Reflection: Contemplate the birth of Christ and the proclamation of peace. How can you become a bearer of Christ’s presence and peace in the world?
Lectio Divina Exercise: Read and reflect on the familiar Nativity story. What resonates with you, and how can you share the good news with others?
Meditation Prayer: “Christ, born in a humble manger, be born in me anew. May I be a source of Your love and peace in the world.”
Hour 8: The Gift of Christ’s Presence
Scripture Reading: Matthew 2:1-12
Catholic Reflection: Ponder the Magi’s journey and the gifts they bring. What gifts can you offer to the newborn King?
Lectio Divina Exercise: Meditate on the journey of the Magi. What insights do you gain about your own spiritual journey and offerings to Christ?
Meditation Prayer: “Lord, as I conclude this retreat, may I offer You the gifts of my heart. May Your presence continue to guide and inspire me.”
Tailor the experience for the passengers in the car.
Read the Scripture Readings aloud and let the other passengers (not the driver!) close their eyes and picture the scene.
Instruct those in the car on the Reflection exercise, keeping a period of silent reverence.
Move to Lectio Divina and pause.
Complete the hour with the Meditation prayer.
Invite those in the car to reflect on the activities and encourage each passenger to journal or sit quietly with their thoughts.