What is a Manresa?
That is one of the first questions raised by many retreatants at Manresa Jesuit Spiritual Renewal Centre in Pickering. Manresa is not a thing but a place – a small town in Spain near Barcelona where St. Ignatius of Loyola stopped to meditate and pray in 1522. He had already laid aside his sword and his worldly ways but his path to conversion was still incomplete. He spent several months in a small cave doing battle with his fiercest opponent: himself. He struggled with feelings of worthlessness and despair as well as scrupulosity. In his autobiography he made it clear that he was near collapse. But he weathered the storm and having achieved a breakthrough he set off on the rest of his spiritual journey. The rest of his life would be marked by this experience. It was characterized by a sense of balance and the avoidance of extremes as well as the ability to see God in all things. Today one can visit the small cave where he passed those difficult months. It is now part of a large Jesuit church.
Many Jesuit retreat houses throughout the world take their name from this sacred place so it has come to denote an experience of spiritual awakening. The retreat is about deepening one’s relationship with God. Manresa has two very important tools for this quest. The first is the beauty of God’s creation manifested in its 21 acres. The second is something that our own culture cannot provide – silence. Unplugging from a frenetic and noisy environment can refresh and renew the body, mind, and spirit. Many who come for retreats wonder what two days of silence will be like and whether they are up to the challenge. Most agree that it was one of the richest and most consoling aspects of the retreat. The silence helps to create the conditions for listening to the inner voice of the Spirit.
Although the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and the Scriptures is the constant core of the retreats, both their presentation and audience have changed to reflect the evolving nature of the Church and the needs of our world. Manresa also conducts 12-step retreats as well as programs for religious organizations, professional associations, and groups based on language and culture.
Manresa is self-supporting and operating costs are borne exclusively by the free will donations of the retreatants. The suggested donation for a weekend retreat is $175 although no one is turned away for lack of funds.
Each week the retreat closes with faith sharing by the retreatants. Individuals are free to express a particular blessing, healing, insight, or experience of the retreat. The sharing is always an eloquent testimony that God is alive and well – and very much at work in individual lives and in the world.