When I arrived at the Abbey of the Genesee, with 13 other Canisius seniors and three faculty directors, I was unsure of how to feel. This wasn't the same feeling that I had on my Kairos or Emmaus retreats in my junior and sophomore years. The retreat house created a sense of introspection and deeper spiritual reflection that was more personal and transformative.
That evening we gathered together for dinner and then our first Mass together. And once we concluded the liturgy, the period of silent prayer and reflection began. I wasn't sure at first how to pray or meditate but I came in ready to try new things. Fr. Michael Corcoran, S.J. '76, the Canisius campus minister, gave a talk on Scripture meditation, showing us how we can come to develop deeper, personal relationships with Jesus, the human revelation of God, and understand how He is just like us. This allowed me to begin to break away from my abstract perception of God and understand how Scripture reveals God's personality to us.
Fr. David Ciancimino, S.J., the president of Canisius High School, spoke on the Ignatian Examen, showing that when we take quiet time to look back on our day, we can see where God was active in our daily lives and where we could have done better. When I prayed the Examen I reflected on where I could have done better and where I was truly blessed during the day. It was clear to me that God has been active in ways that I would have never realized had I not taken quiet time to reflect.
The next day Mr. Alec Hufford, a member of the Canisius faculty, shared his experiences of imaginative prayer, demonstrating how we can better visualize Jesus and get a sense of Him as a human by imagining ourselves in the stories with Him. I read over the accounts of Jesus' resurrection in multiple Gospels, picturing myself feeling the emotions of hearing Jesus has risen and rushing to spread the news.
All in all, the Senior Silent Retreat revealed to me that God doesn't have to be an abstract figure that dwells outside of the natural world. We can encounter God and understand Him in a personal way by looking to Jesus in the Gospels and using prayer to discern where we have been blessed throughout each and every day.
Editor's note: The author, Lucas Perez '19, is pictured with his fellow retreatants above. He's in the front row, second from the left.