Life is harried, hurried and overwhelming – at least according to the marketing guys over at Loyola Press. The Jesuit-run publishing house recently launched an 3-minute retreat application for the iPhone and iPod touch to help folks take a break, anywhere, anytime (as long as it isn’t while you’re driving!) from the concerns and pressures of the world. Take a look at it here. (For folks w/out an iPhone, you can take part in the retreat online, here. People who don’t have access to the Internet apparently have to do a regular in-person retreat.)
Leave it to the Jesuits (aka: The Society of Jesus) , who, like all religious order priests take a vow of poverty, to come up with an app for the most expensive phone out there. I know it is an outreach, and they are probably thinking that people with the iPhone are so busy multitasking that they are unlikely to take a break and thus need these reminders. (Imagine the calendar of a CEO: Staff meeting at 8; press conference at 9; solve Major Problem at 10; 3-minute retreat at 11; board meeting at 11:04 …) Or, they are just doing what Jesuits have done for ages: Going where the people are, and right now, people are more likely to do a virtual retreat than show up at a retreat house.
But still, it seems so ironic, especially for a religious order who has as one of its touchstones the 8-day silent Ignatian retreat (which is actually a truncated version of the really intense 30-day retreat). On the other hand, the world is so busy very few people can take the time to make even a weekend retreat nowadays, much less an 8 or 30-day one. And any silent time – even if it is filtered through technology – is better than no silent time at all.
If you are up for a weekend retreat, the local Redemptorist-run retreat house in beautiful Picture Rocks offers a plethora of them, as well as hermitages you can rent to just have some silent space away from the noise and business of your life. Having attended some half-day activities there, I can attest that the people are peaceful and friendly, the chapel is gorgeous, the petroglyphs and hiking trails inspiring and the food is great. For those among you of a Buddhist bent, there are Zen Sesshin and public sittings offered frequently through the Pathless Path program, run by a priest who is also a Zen Master in The Diamond Sangha, which is a blending of the Rinzai and Soto schools of Zen.