We want to acknowledge the wonderful hospitality of the pastors and people of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 2607 Lumpkin Road in Augusta, Georgia. They graciously lend their campus and buildings to the School for each two-week-long session in January and July. Being only one mile from Faith Village where the majority of Alleluia Community members live and provide hospitality for our out-of-town students, the parish buildings and grounds are ideal and convenient for the presentations, sharing groups, private spiritual direction of the students, quiet prayer times, and meals.
Seems like a packed two weeks? It is! “Spiritual Boot Camp,” a phrase coined by one of our presenters, pretty adequately describes the schedule followed by the students during each two-week-long session. The days begin with an optional Catholic Mass which is the parish’s normal daily worship service at 8:30 each morning. After a short continental breakfast, the day gets started with a 30-minute praise and prayer time lead by a volunteer guitarist and open to spontaneous words of prophecy and scripture, exhortation and paying special attention to any needs/issues that any of the students might voice.
The next two hours are filled with lectures teaching the basic elements constitutive of spiritual direction. The time is broken up with question & answer times, role-playing and real-time practice of spiritual direction in groups of three. After a quick lunch, it’s time for the sharing groups of 8 students and two facilitators, where everyone is expected to share the fruit of their experience of God in the previous day’s long afternoon silent prayer time. This setting, in a strictly confidential atmosphere, gives the students the opportunity to listen with caring attention to their peers – without, however, being allowed to comment. These groups become a safe place to share frustrations, agitations, distractions as well as joys and consolations in prayer. The students use their prayer journals to assist them in sharing.
After the co-director assigns the 4 or 5 scriptures for the day, the afternoon 3-hour silent prayer time begins. Yes, it’s not a misprint! The Alleluia School of Spiritual Direction teaches the Contemplative-Evocative Approach to spiritual direction; and so this extended period of time in silent prayer becomes the basic tool that God uses to manifest His desire for a personal relationship with the student, and models for the students that kind of prayer lives they must have once they embark on the rest of their lives as spiritual directors.
The afternoon concludes with supper (the silence is over!). Then from 6 to 8 pm each weekday, the evening lecture on the particular theme of that session takes place. We bring in outside Presenters who are eminently qualified in their fields of expertise: mystical prayer, discernment, the person of Christ, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, spiritual warfare and deliverance, methods of healing ministry, etc. These evening presentations are open free of charge to outside persons attending on a space-available basis.
The Saturday and Sunday of the middle week-end of the School’s two-week sessions follows an abbreviated schedule of about 7 hours, while the weekdays of both weeks as described above are 12-hour days. Yes, it’s intense, and the feelings at the closing Saturday luncheon are predominantly ones of exhilaration and relief! But take courage, our students range in age from 26 to 76. When you’re done with each Session, you will be tired but happy, and filled with a sense of accomplishment and gratitude!