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Sarah Pedrozo reviews the Cloister Ignatian Prayer app, which is designed to provide an Ignatian retreat experience to anyone at any time.   

A couple of times a year, the retreat center in my diocese offers a 3-day silent retreat. People are invited to come and spend a few days reflecting on their relationship with God, while being guided into a deeper, more intimate union with Him. The retreat master who oversees these three days is a person who is experienced in the twists and turns of the spiritual life and can assist the participants in identifying the roadblocks keeping them from God. By the end of the retreat, each person has usually gained clarity, insight and a renewed sense of purpose about his or her life. 

There’s just one problem. Very few people can step away from their lives for three days to experience a retreat like this. But a new app, developed by Ignatian retreat center Cloisters on the Platte in Gretna, Nebraska, aims to solve this problem by making an Ignatian retreat available to everyone, at any time, for as little as 30 minutes a day. 

Following the Exercises of St. Ignatius, the Cloister Ignatian Prayer app provides a digital retreat organized into four blocks of time called Weeks. Although each block of time is called a week, the blocks don’t need to be completed in four consecutive weeks, or even in weeks at all. Rather, each “week” is self-paced and can be done and re-done in the way that works best for the participant. Each week focuses on a specific theme. Week One mediates on God’s Love and Mercy, for example, while Week Three contemplates the Passion of Christ.

Each week contains several lessons that guide the retreatant more deeply into the theme. The lessons begin with a video, about 30 minutes long, containing beautiful music, cinematography, and guidance from experienced retreat leaders. The lessons end with prayer, Scripture readings and questions that can be journaled, mediated upon, or even placed into an imaginative scene with Jesus or the saints. 




One of the best aspects of this app is that it truly does aim to be a full retreat experience. Before beginning each lesson, the retreatant is reminded to get ready, to become aware of the presence of God and the prayer experience that is about to begin. 




Each lesson is finished not by the end of the video but by spending time in prayer and reflection, as described above and seen in the screenshot below. 




One thing to note is that the Cloisters Ignatian Prayer app is designed to be ecumenical, in that it is first concerned with inviting people of all faiths—or no faith—into a relationship with God, and secondarily teaches about Catholicism. This means the app can be a great way to invite someone who is open to God but not to organized religion to come in closer, making it a good tool for evangelization. For those already in the Catholic church, the app presents a powerful way of deepening our faith with God through using a centuries old method of meditation and imagination. The guided lessons are presented by religious scholars who are either Jesuit priests themselves or Catholic lay leaders experienced in using the Spiritual Exercises in spiritual direction. 

The first lesson is free, and a recurring subscription is only $8 a month or $60 a year ($5 a month). I personally recommend signing up for the monthly or even annual subscription, because that gives you a chance to really experience the retreat, something that is difficult to do in just one lesson. If you decide it’s not for you, you can cancel your subscription at any time.   

Besides the Four Weeks and their lessons, the app also has a library of additional resources such as videos by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen and other audio recordings. There is also a Way of the Cross meditation, which was filmed on location at Cloisters on the Platte and is a combination of meditation, reflection and imaginative rendering of scenes from Jesus’ time. It’s one of the most moving versions of the Stations I’ve seen and is worth viewing and praying with many times.  


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 As with most things, repetition is key. It may take a few times through the Four Weeks to disciple our minds into focusing and praying with the videos and questions for reflection. It may not be the first time but the fourth or fifth time cycling through that we have an “aha!” moment. That’s where this app can be most helpful. Unlike an annual retreat, the Cloisters Ignatian Prayer app makes a retreat experience available to us every month or even every day. Such is the power of technology used for good. For more information and to subscribe, visit CloistersIgnatianPrayer.org. 

Copyright 2024 Sarah Pedrozo
Images: (top) Canva; all others screenshots from Cloister Ignatian Prayer App, taken by Sarah Pedrozo