For many years now Fr David Birchall SJ has been running retreats for men by the sea in Calpe, Spain, on the Mediterranean. Fr David writes:
“These have always proved popular with the vast majority of participants. The dates are 14-21 of June, and the presenter is Fr Russell Pollitt SJ, a South African Jesuit who can be relied upon for a lively, thought and prayer provoking retreat. “
The men who have attended in the past, as i have done, would certainly confirm that these are indeed highly popular, and simultaneously valuable as both high quality spirituality, and also extraordinarily good value time to simply relax in amenable company, on the Spanish coast.
The daily programme features a spiritual focus in the mornings, with afternoons left free. From the brochure:
This retreat is a combination of mornings with a presentation of a theme and material for reflection, some prayer, time to ponder and share. A substantial lunch, with space for a siesta will follow. Early afternoon is free. Late afternoon sessions are followed by Mass. The day’s programme ends with a stroll to a restaurant for the evening meal.
This structure works well, enabling both formal time for prayer and reflection, and also time to relax with and bond with others (perhaps on the beach?), or in quiet time alone. When I first saw publicity for these retreats several years ago, I was puzzled: was this a genuine retreat, or just an excuse for a men’s holiday in the sun? In fact, it’s both, with good reason. The free time in the afternoons and evenings (often over a sing-song and drinks) is valuable in building community, and some informal sharing (including faith sharing) that reinforces the more formal spiritual work in the mornings.
The retreat director this year will be Fr Russell Pollitt SJ, director of the Jesuit Institute of South Africa. Of interest to gay Catholics, is that during his time as parish priest of Holy Trinity parish, Johannesburg (my former home parish), he responded to a need identified by a group of parishioners, and started an LGBT support group within the parish. When the group later asked him for approval to join in Johannesburg’s gay pride march, he not only agreed, but joined the parade himself, for that part of the route within the parish area. For this retreat, says the brochure,
Fr Russell will be helping us look at and ponder on our encounters with Jesus. He will do this by using scripture, some of the writings of holy men and women of Reform and Catholic tradition, as well as some of the major documents of Pope Francis whose writings are addressed not just to Catholics but all people of goodwill.
Fr Russell says, “In the book of Revelation we are told that Jesus stands at the door and knocks. Pope Francis suggests that he is knocking from the inside, wanting to get out of a Church that has locked him up. We are being challenged to think differently and creatively about God, faith, the Church and life in today – our personal encounters with Jesus will free him, free us, fuel our creativity and shape our vision”
It’s also worth noting that this retreat is extraordinarily good value. “All-inclusive” here, really does mean “all”, apart from airfare.
The cost of the retreat includes
✔ Accommodation in rooms with en-suite facilities. (Many rooms are twin-bedded but we shall allocate all rooms as singles unless requested otherwise )
✔ Full board, which usually involves a three course meal at a beach-side restaurant.
✔ Drinks – soft and alcoholic
✔ Transfers from Alicante airport to the house in Calpe.
✔ All costs of the retreat giver and materials.
For more details, see the full retreat brochure – Retreat for men in Calpe, Costa Blanca