A 500-year tradition of spiritual accompaniment came to Singapore in 1990 when the Society of Jesus established the Kingsmead Centre for Ignatian Spirituality and Counselling.
The retreats, prayer methods and spiritual direction offered at Kingsmead Centre, are all derived from the Spiritual Exercises practised and taught by the founder of the society, St Ignatius of Loyola.
Located at Victoria Park Road and right next to the Church of St Ignatius, Kingsmead Centre is an ideal space for the silence that one needs to encounter God within oneself or in nature.
The three-storey building is surrounded by a spacious and well-tended garden with many shady spaces.
A retreatant, who requested anonymity, and who made a silent retreat there some two years ago, shares, “Kingsmead has a subtle yet alluring charm. The quiet and privacy one gets allows me to feel an intimate closeness with God. It’s like coming home.”
Mr Julius Tan and Mr Pison Christian, who have been receiving spiritual accompaniment for a year and six months, respectively, find the environment conducive.
“I love the serenity of Kingsmead... It allows me to get into a right frame of mind and spirit to share intimately my life with my spiritual director (SD),” says Mr Tan.
Value of silence
Last year, Kingsmead Centre’s eight spiritual directors saw 763 retreatants through individually guided retreats or group retreats with one-to-one guidance.
“Living in a very busy world, overwhelmed by a culture of doing, noise prevails and we are often lost and confused about who we are and our purpose in life “Only in the silence, can we listen to what is truly going on in ourselves, and begin to listen to the ‘gentle whisper’ of God,” the spiritual directors at Kingsmead Centre tell Catholic News in an email.
And to those who have yet to experience a one-on-one retreat in silence, the SD team recommends a two- to three-day retreat. “Just allow yourself to be open to the experience. The silence can be very inviting and comforting,” they coax.
Having an attitude of “openness, generosity, patience and a real desire to encounter God and to deepen the relationship”, would also be helpful. “Be aware that the retreat is an invitation from God, and trust Him,” says the team.
Value of spiritual direction
“Even ‘seasoned’ retreat goers will benefit from a spiritual director who, in a prayerful stance, listens to both the retreatant and the Holy Spirit,” says the SD team.
“A spiritual director guides the retreatant to recognise the promptings of the Spirit and the many invitations of God… Just as one can only listen to God in the silence of our hearts, an SD can guide one to discern what is of God and what is not, as one speaks.”
Describing the relationship between a directee and SD, the Kingsmead team, says “A ‘professional’ distance is a requisite. SDs are encouraged not to socialise with their directees. Both must be aware and respect boundaries. At the same time, the SD needs to exercise empathy, compassion, gentleness, patience, kindness, and confidentiality and to build a safe, confidential and relaxed space for the sacred to be heard and experienced.”
Mr Tan and Mr Christian are two of the 85 directees at Kingsmead last year. Mr Tan says, “My SD has led me to understand similar patterns (of emotions and reactions to events) that I otherwise might not be aware of. This has in turn helped me respond and make more positive and life-giving decisions in my life.”
Ms Adeline Foo began receiving spiritual direction in 2008 after a 30-week programme with her SD. She now meets with her once a month. She says, “Having someone who has the spiritual insight helps me to see situations differently.”
A retreatant in 2011, who has been going for spiritual direction since, is Ms Wee (not her real name). She struggled with the breakdown of a relationship.
“Now I have learned to follow Scripture in my decisions, to seek God in prayer, to seek counsel from spiritual teachers and to heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit rather than my old way of scrambling after purely secular technical knowledge and ignoring the spiritual realm. This has been a big change.”
Kingsmead Centre offers live-in and stay-out programmes throughout the year.
To find out more, visit www.kingsmeadcentre.sg.
By Mel Diamse-Lee