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Retreats are spiritual exercises which, apart from everyday life , are intended to lead to intensive reflection and encounter with God . They are carried out individually or in groups and can last from a few hours to several weeks or months. Basic elements are prayer (especially the Jesus prayer ), meditation , lectio divina , fasting , silence , conversations with a retreat guide and physical or artistic activity ( ora et labora , iconography ).

historical development

The Ignatian Exercises , the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, are formative for the use of words as well as for practice . The founder of the Society of Jesus tried to make his own spiritual experiences available to others. To this end, he invited friends and others interested in a radical following of Jesus to withdraw for a time and, under his guidance , to devote themselves to prayer , meditation and discernment of spirits .

With the Apostolic Constitution Summorum Pontificum of July 25, 1922, Pope Pius XI. St. Ignatius of Loyola as the patron saint of all spiritual exercises.

Benedictine and other classical forms of exercise

Today there are many forms of spiritual exercises: One example is the Benedictine retreat, in which lectio divina , the spiritual reading of scriptures , the repeated "ruminating" contemplation of biblical or other spiritual texts - the "ruminatio" (from Latin ruminare "ruminate") following the example of early Christian monks - the common prayer of the hours and the maintenance of silence are practiced. Other forms are retreats according to Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross , in which the prayer of loving attention is the focus, Franciscan retreats that take inspiration from St. Francis of Assisi , or various forms of contemplative retreats, the elements of Christian mysticism and Far Eastern Connect spirituality ( Zen , Yoga ).

Exercises in Protestantism and Orthodoxy

A new development is that retreats are also offered in the context of Protestant and Orthodox churches; Sometimes they are called " preparation time " in the Protestant church . Established the Protestant retreats training in Switzerland . In the past, retreats in Protestant churches tended to be rejected because the exercise character was associated with the danger of work righteousness and was seen in contrast to the pure grace character of redemption ( sola gratia ).

On the orthodox side, the skepticism that the individual is too independent of church authority causes reluctance or rejection of Ignatian retreats, which want to promote the individual's immediacy in his relationship with God.

Newer forms of retreat

  • Exercises in everyday life are regular meetings with impulses and discussions, while everyday life with work and family continues as normal. The participants are invited to design and integrate times of prayer in their everyday life.
  • The Benedictines Georg Eisenstein and Sebastian Debour have been offering “Gestalt retreats” in Gerleve Abbey since the early 1990s as small group retreats based on gestalt therapy based on pastoral psychology .
  • The Jesuit Christian Herwartz initially offered " retreats on the street " in Berlin . In the meantime, this form of retreat is also being offered in other cities and countries by volunteer retreat guides from various denominations. The participants let themselves be challenged with their longing for places in the respective city, like Moses, who went with his flock across the steppe into the desert and came across a burning, but not burning, thorn bush. There he felt that he was on holy ground. God wanted to speak to him there ( ExEU ). With respectful seeing and hearing, the practitioners want to perceive the “holy places” in the city, where they should “take off their shoes” and listen in order to be able to answer. God can wait for individuals with his call in very different places - among drug addicts, in the employment office or in a mosque, at a memorial, on a river bank or elsewhere - in order to call him further into a liberated life. Since 2019 retreats have been taking place on the streets together with Buddhists and Muslims .
  • In “online retreats”, like in retreats , the participants live at home in everyday life and go about their normal activities. For four weeks, they will receive a short impulse every day by email that is short enough to keep them busy during the day. In the evening there should be time for a brief review of the day, and once a week the participants correspond with the individual companion of the retreat. The companions are Jesuits and other theologians.
  • The Catholic theologians Alexandra Pook and Thomas Harling hold since 2009 a. a. in the Benedictine abbeys of Münsterschwarzach and Gerleve “Exercises for atheists, people of different faiths and seekers”. Her idea is to offer people the classic forms and rituals of the retreats as a path of experience and practice without assuming a Christian faith.
  • Hiking retreats
  • Desert retreat
  • Nature retreats


Hiking retreats

  • Knut Waldau / Helmut Betz: Mountains are silent masters. Spiritual accompaniment on the way through the mountains . Munich 2003

Carmelite Retreat

  • Sr. Veronika Elisabeth Schmitt OCD: Contemplative retreat with Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross . Pneuma, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-942013-02-4 .

Exercises in everyday life

  • Anselm Grün: Exercises for everyday life. Münsterschwarzach 2009, ISBN 978-3-89680-424-2 .
  • Michael Hettich: Practicing faith in everyday life. Genesis and criteria of the Ignatian retreat in everyday life. Würzburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-429-03109-1 .

Exercises on the street

  • Christian Herwartz: On bare feet - retreats on the street. Würzburg 2006, ISBN 3-429-02839-6 .
  • Christian Herwartz: Burning presence - retreats on the street. Würzburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-429-03428-3 .
  • Christian Herwartz, Maria Jans-Wenstrup, Katharina Prinz, Elisabeth Tollkötter, Josef Freise (eds.): Seeking God's traces in everyday life on the street: Personal encounters in street retreats. Neukirchen-Vluyn 2016, ISBN 978-3-7615-6270-3 .

Web links

Wikisource: en: Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) / Retreats  - Sources and full texts (English)

Individual evidence

  1. Andreas Pacificus Alkofer: ruminatio . In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 3. Edition. tape 8 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1999, Sp. 1360 .
  2. Udo Hofmann: What are retreats? (PDF, 63 kB) In: Exercise Heart Prayer. 2002, p. 1 , accessed December 25, 2018 .
  3. Christian Herwartz: What are retreats on the street? Retrieved December 25, 2018 . Exercise on the street - Respectful hearing and seeing. Retrieved December 25, 2018 .
  4. Florian Piller: Street retreat (Switzerland). Retrieved December 25, 2018 . Exercices spirituels dans la rue. April 26, 2014, accessed December 25, 2018 (French).
  5. Upcoming Events ›Courses. In: Exercises on the Street. Retrieved December 25, 2018 .
  6. Heribert Graab: Online Exercises. German Province of the Jesuits Kdö.R. Munich, November 22, 2018, accessed December 25, 2018 .