Project Canterbury

In His Will: Retreat Addresses

By Frank Weston

London: SPCK, 1922.
New York: The Macmillan Co., 1922.

Opening Address

THINK of God as Eternal Quiet--the Still One--the Changeless One. Let us offer all our restlessness, our unquiet hearts to Him.

O my God, I am here before Thee, not because I want to be, but because Thou hast called me, not because I can say or do anything good, but because I cannot be satisfied without Thee.

I am nothing: Thou art my God and my All.

O my God, I believe in Thee, Three Persons and One God: Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

I believe that Jesus Christ was made Man and died for me. I believe that Jesus Christ, in His Body and Blood, His Soul and His Divinity is truly Present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.

[10] I believe all that Thou hast taught me in Thy Church and by Thy Word; Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief.

O my God, I hope in Thee, because of Thy dear Son's self-abandonment in love for me. I hope in Thee to help me in all my troubles, to forgive me all my sins, to carry me through all temptations, to crush down within me all my passions; to bring me to that perfection that Thou hast purposed for me, and finally to unite me to Thyself in Heaven at last.

O Lord, in Thee have I trusted: let me never be confounded.


We will think to-night about the meaning of a Retreat. There are certain things we ought to observe.

I. I have come to God because God wants me. Because I have come at God's call, and because He has put it into my heart to come, I must pay attention to Him and to Him only.

Therefore I must, first of all, keep the rule of Silence. This rule of Silence does not, of course, mean that a person may not ask for the things necessary to be asked for, but it does mean not talking to others in the ordinary sense of the word. In every way we must try to shut out the world from our minds. We keep the rule for God's Glory, we shut out every opportunity of thinking of self, in order that we may give God an opportunity of making Himself heard within us. Every breach of this rule is putting a hindrance in His way.

Secondly, experience has taught us that a breach of this rule of Silence is [11/12] spoiling somebody else's desire to be alone with God, and, therefore, is hard on other people.

Thirdly, it spoils the tone of the Retreat. 2. Since we have come to jay attention to God and God only, it is a good thing to open our hearts to God, to lift our eyes to God, to take our thoughts off self.

You have come here to think of God, and it is right not to think of your horrible self, except so far as you are in sin. If you were in Retreat for a week, it would be a different matter. Then, it would be easy to set a day apart. Now, let us think about God chiefly, though of course all thinking about God involves thinking about self. But the primary object of a Retreat is to listen to God, to speak to God and to learn to be alone with God.

Then this, if I may say it. It is a good thing not to lean upon anyone. Some people do not think they have made a good Retreat unless they have had a long talk with the Conductor. Some people need it no doubt; but do bear in mind, and don't mind my saying it, it ought not to be necessary--and only necessary when something is really wrong and needs real [12/13] advice. We want to get the spirit of real devotion. Let us above all things aim at Communion with God. Do you see what I mean? I don't want to discourage anybody from what is good and right, only as far as it is possible keep away from yourselves and the Conductor, and be alone with God. If there are little difficulties, a few words with the Conductor may help, but you will understand, and use your own discretion.

That is the primary rule and its interpretation: to attend to God and try to have three days of uninterrupted Communion with God.

To begin the Retreat to-night, there are a few things I want to say which'may help, out of which each one may find something helpful, that through the Holy Spirit we may use every moment as well as we can. How shall we spend the introductory hours of the Retreat? Let us take this for our thought to-night and for the early hours of to-morrow up to the time of our Communion.

We begin with this simple truth: I am come to be alone with God. God made me entirely for Himself, and the great crises [13/14] that come in my life, the great sorrows, the great temptations, always bring home to me my utter loneliness. Matters do not really reach a crisis with me unless they throw me back upon myself, unless they make me feel absolutely powerless and lonely. The sting of temptation is in the sense that evil rules me: I am alone; I may lose my touch of God! Loneliness! The sting of bereavement, of great sorrow, is the loneliness of being left behind. And in pain, real pain, the sting is loneliness; nobody else can quite understand it, nobody else can certainly feel it. And in remorse, it is the loneliness that hurts. The whole secret of life is to learn to be alone with God. It is not anything merely sentimental, not merely trying to have a nice feeling that God is near me; it is the reality of life. The only thing that saves us from the sting of temptation, from the sorrow that is almost intolerable, from the pain turning into bitterness--the ultimate thing and the only thing that is so real that it can help then, is the touch of the Presence of God, for then I know I am not alone. God made me in order that there should be God and [14/15] myself in active union, in active partnership. I know I don't live my life like that, so I come into Retreat and for three days I am going to be alone with God--God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

I shall be alone with the Eternal Father, the Creator, alone with Creative Love, Who made me for Himself, and He will speak to me, speak to me surely above all else of the motive Power that is in my heart.

He wants to be alone with me, and as He draws near to me, He would embrace me in His Love, but He finds in me something that is not Himself. He finds something in my heart which is not clean, that is different from Him, which makes it impossible for Him to be alone with me. And He speaks to me of a purity of motive, of a purity of heart that keeps out anything from me that is not God. And I do want Him to .speak in these three days of that to me. These are not to be three days spent in bewailing the very natural proof that none of us live with pure single motive of heart. Nor do we want to spend three days in thinking of the mixed character of our motives. Let them be [15/16] spent alone with the Father that He may inspire us with purity of heart. He will shew us the meaning of a single heart, give us a vision that may carry us through the future, give us joy and hopefulness and a certainty that, little by little, in the measure of our perseverance we shall one day come out with purity of goodness and singleness of heart. That is what I want to listen about to-night--alone with my Father.

"If I be a Father where is Mine Honour?"

"Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before Thee."

"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom."

"I shall give unto them Eternal Life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My Hand."

"If a man love Me he will keep My Words, and My Father will love Him, and we will come unto Him and make our abode with Him."

The whole vision opens out at the beginning of a Retreat of the possibility of a life lived alone with Eternal Love.

[17] Then again I go into Retreat to be alone in the atmosphere created by the Holy Ghost the Spirit of God, Who filleth all things. The whole world is indwelt by the Spirit Who created it. Each human being is a potential temple of the Holy Spirit. Each ordinary human life, a sinful human life, has the possibility of living in the atmosphere of the Holy Spirit Who fills it, and would order it sweetly according to the Eternal Wisdom. We are going to spend three days out of the atmosphere of the world; we will put it behind us, and for three whole days simply dwell in the atmosphere that He alone can make--the Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Ghost. How we have failed, haven't we? Every time we have been called by God to say our prayers, to make our meditation, to devotional reading of the Bible, or do some act of devotion, we have had a definite chance, an opportunity to respond to the Holy Spirit, Who was trying to extend His atmosphere over our hearts. O, how we've failed!

Yet we are not here to sum up our failures, but to listen in hopefulness while He shews us the Vision once more--the [17/18] old vision of possibilities, the vision of a recollected life, the vision of an indwelt life. We shall go back to our homes carrying a new. atmosphere of peace, a quiet power, a recollectedness that belongs to those who know that within them dwells the Eternal Power, the Spirit of God Who is the ultimate Force in the Universe.

Thirdly. I am going to be alone with Jesus. And at the beginning of our three days it is well for us to count the cost of being alone with Jesus.

Think, in any spare time you may have, of those who on earth were alone with Jesus. Think what it meant to His Apostles. They were most near to Him. Think of their personal union with Jesus. Think what it meant to S. Peter. S. Peter was alone with Jesus several times. Think of his loneliness when our Lord turned and looked upon him; or when flying from Rome he met his Lord on the road, and said to Him "Whither goest Thou, Lord?" Our Lord replied: "I go to Rome to be crucified again in thy place." Or think of the loneliness of S. John. Often he was alone with Jesus. Think [18/19] how that blessed time in which he lay on Jesus' Bosom meant years and years of weary work and waiting. "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" Count up what it means to be alone with Jesus. Count the cost of being alone three days with Jesus.

We must come into Retreat really and truly expecting that we are going to be, each one of us, for three days, in a way that perhaps we have never been before, in personal touch with the Living Jesus Who was crucified for us. In our Communions we lay our very hands, through the Veil of Sacrament, upon the Humanity born of Mary and crucified under Pontius Pilate. The very same Jesus Who said to James and John the sons of Zebedee:--"Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"--that very same Jesus wishes to be alone with you and me for three days and we cannot go out of Retreat unchanged. It means finding the personal relationship that the Blessed Jesus is willing to reveal to each one of us, according to our desire and according to our readiness to respond. "Ye shall indeed [19/20] drink of the cup that I drink of, and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized."

That is only one side. There is the other side: the side of intimate friendship with Jesus; there is the side of faithful and loving confidence in Jesus, the side of realization of vocation, of humble and utterly weak response to Jesus, but a response accepted and empowered by Him.

We mustn't fail Him, then, in these three days. He has much to tell us about our relationship with Him, about our conversion to Him. As the years go on, and as the time draws nearer when we shall see Him face to face, He is wonderfully kind in making us conscious of the feebleness of our conversion, and it is in Retreat He takes us, not one, but perhaps many steps further along the road. It is in Retreat, alone with Jesus, that we are able to see through the system of religion to a Person in Whom the whole system hangs together. It is alone with Jesus in Retreat that we see behind the sacramental system of the Church and get into personal communion with a Person. It [20/21] is in Retreat, alone with Jesus, that vocation comes home to us, and, however far we've got, we must entirely begin all over again to try and have a closer personal union with Him, as if there were nothing in the universe but Jesus and ourselves. What a wonderful prize He offers us--three days of prayer!

But you must not, whatever happens, try to force the Hand of Jesus in Retreat. You must not worry. Look away from yourselves to God. Have no theory as to how God will deal with you; have no sort of expectation in your mind as to what you are going to do or receive. Leave everything entirely to God, and in all simplicity, like little children, come round your Father when He calls you; wait upon Him in all simplicity, in quiet penitence, in humble confidence; come to your Saviour as He holds out His Arms to you. ' Don't try to force your feelings.

Don't be impatient.

Don't worry about your feelings.

Don't expect anything.

Don't desire anything but that the Will of Jesus may be accomplished in you. Pray that these three days of waiting upon [21/22] God may be spent entirely according to His Will; that you may wish for nothing, desire nothing, but what Ha. wills to give you. Cast feelings from you; those who cling hard haven't time to be self-conscious. Don't watch yourselves as you pray--watch Jesus.

And just this last word. Will you take these two words as warnings?

In Retreat we must be humble and hopeful. Humble, because humility is an act by which we place ourselves in our right position before God; it is a habit by which we think of ourselves as in our right place before God. So we must be very humble--humble about the past, humble about the present and as we think of the future.

And be hopeful, because hope is not only a duty, it is worship. To be hopeful is to give God His rightful place in your life. In spite of anything that is gone before, in spite of anything now, be entirely hopeful of your future relation to God, perfectly hopeful because you put God in His right place.

God comes to you and to me. We are going to be alone with God, with Creative [22/23] Love, the Spirit Who made me, Who makes from day to day \ht atmosphere in which union with God is possible. Jesus, the Finger of God, is touching, drawing, keeping me in perfect union with God. And I am humble above all things, and yet perfectly hopeful, because "I know that my Redeemer liveth."

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