Online retreat options for Lent

Fran Rossi Szpylczyn is a self-described “church nerd.” You could say she is something of an Internet one, too.

A blogger for six years, she currently writes for three faith-related blogs — one for her own parish, one for the parish where she works as the office manager and onefor the Times Union newspaper in Albany, N.Y.

That’s not counting her daily Facebook posts and tweets, all in the name of faith sharing and community building. Did I mention she’s also working on a master’s degree in theology?

So when Szpylczyn heard about a retreat called “Hurry Up and Slow Down” last fall, she knew it would be a balm to her frazzled spirit. But surprisingly, this reflective respite did not require a fast from technology. On the contrary: It required it.

Welcome to the next generation of spiritual sustenance: online retreats. No need to get away to a retreat center, eat cafeteria food or get up at the crack of dawn for morning prayer. Now guided prayers or reflections from famous retreat directors, community with other retreatants, and even personal communication with a spiritual director are just a keyboard (or touchscreen) away.

“Hurry Up and Slow Down” was the first online retreat offered by Jane Redmont, who has worked in campus, urban and parish ministries in Catholic and Episcopal communities. She also offered an online retreat in Advent and is hosting one on Thomas Merton for Lent this year. The six-week “Hurry Up and Slow Down” retreat, which will be repeated again this spring, featured readings, practices and spiritual exercises — as well as a closed blog accessible only to fellow retreatants.

Szpylczyn found it spiritually nourishing and convenient.

“One thing that was a real plus was that it stretched out over several weeks, which an in-person retreat would not be,” she said. “It gave me something to look forward to each week.”

Providing a retreat-like experience for those who couldn’t afford the time or expense of an actual getaway is motivating an increasing number of individuals and organizations to offer online options. But is the Internet really compatible with spiritual growth? Isn’t social media something Catholics should be giving up for Lent? Continue reading



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