Silent Retreat in La Salle House

Author Thomas Green called a prayer retreat a vacation with the Lord. My experience of retreat did not bear that out. Certainly not during those years when I was pastoring. Those retreats were not vacations, but more like intense wrestling with God and myself. Now that I have retired from the pastorate (but not from ministry), I am finding more sweetness and rest in my retreats. Most notably, in this recent eight days of silence (part of a spiritual direction formation program), I found myself seeking the grace of God’s loving embrace. I wanted to taste more of his love for me. Every day I desired this and prayed the Lord will draw near and reveal his love to me. He answered my prayers. 

Core Identity

As a result of this retreat, I found myself deepened in my core identity. I am his child and he is my Papa. My father did not show much affection, did not talk much, and was a typical Asian father who kept his children socially distant. It is no wonder that in my relationship with God, I found myself more able to relate to Jesus and my helpful friend, the Holy Spirit. Calling God Father in my prayer felt foreign or distant. In this retreat, I found myself imaging myself as a little child clinging, hugging and resting on Papa’s shoulders and neck, committing all my cares and concerns to him in child-like faith. In my journal, I wrote letters to Papa to express my feelings and thanks and prayers to him. I am his beloved. I will enjoy being with him and depend more on him.

I also had a wonderful identification with God as Creator and Master Craftsman. My spiritual director gave me Psalm 139 as one of the passages to meditate upon. I had this same passage and meditated on it for five days during a Chau Son Retreat in Dalat, Vietnam. I thought there would be no more juice to squeeze from this passage but I was wrong. One evening during an hour of adoration, the leader read Psalm 139 and the verses about how God created and crafted us with tender love and detailed care stood out strongly for me. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made….my frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance….” (Ps 139: 13-16).

At that time, I was spending time in the “CREATE” room where many art materials were made available for retreatants to use in prayer. I took a wooden cross and made a glass mosaic piece. I took time to draft designs on paper, try out different glass pieces and colours, worked at pasting the glass pieces carefully, and filling the grouts with cement. My thoughts were on this artwork even outside of the Create room. I fussed over every imperfection, and tried to rectify gaps in the grouting. I was engrossed while I made the cross and was very pleased when it was done (see above). Then suddenly it dawned on me that this was how my Creator and Father was feeling when he made me in my mother’s womb – with great love, creativity in design, care and passion, attention to details, and how proud he must have felt when I was born because I was his masterpiece. I caught a glimpse of our heavenly Father’s passionate love and satisfaction with me, and this moved me. I will celebrate and accept who I am despite my flaws and lack, rejoice in my unique strengths and not envy others of their different gifts and ministry.

Not only was I his beloved child to give him joy, and his beloved masterpiece to display his glory, I had a deepened sense of being his beloved servant. Isaiah 41:8-14, 43:1-5 and 2 Corinthians 4 were other passages given to me for prayer. I prayed with these passages and they reaffirmed for me that though retired from pastoring the church, I am still God’s servant, called, chosen and authorized to represent him in the world and to do his will. A fresh faith sprung up in me of the authority and ministry that God has entrusted to me.  I will be bold and confident as his servant and depend on him to back me up with resources.

It was a lovely retreat and the Lord was kind and gracious in blessing me with these gifts of assurance and revelatory knowledge. I knew these truths in my head and they never affected me. Now they have deeper roots in my experience of his love. 

A team from Life Direction Singapore did a great job of organising and leading this retreat. This eight-days silent retreat is the last major formation element of the one year and nine months “Spiritual Direction Formation Program” (5thbatch), which was lovingly and with much dedication organized and led by them. It is, in my opinion, the best formation program for spiritual direction that you can find in Singapore. I have been greatly blessed, equipped and formed under these formators. 

Where was the retreat held? At the La Salle House(see above), on the grounds of St Patrick’s School which is straddled between East Coast Road and Marine Parade Road, and opposite CHIJ Katong Convent. It is a new building and they are very quickly tackling teething problems. The bedrooms had attached bathrooms and were comfortable, and there were prayer rooms, spiritual direction rooms, meeting rooms of different sizes and a huge dining area. The food that was catered was excellent (see below). I was impressed. 

However as there were more retreatants than rooms, the men were sent to stay in the old retreat rooms of the Brothers’ Residence next door. I got used to the 1970’s décor(see below), eclectic furnishings and dark room. Soon the room became my regular place of prayer for the entire retreat. I decided to have three periods of prayer each day, and one of them was spent on some bench in the open air at the East Coast Beach, to which I cycled in about twenty minutes. 

If you want to have a directed retreat as an individual or a group you can get more information HERE. However if you wish to attend a retreat outside of Singapore there is one coming up in Cebu Island, Philippines, during Advent. You may want to consider this retreat (see below) with a link if you wish to register.

Register HERE.

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Distractions That Spoil A Silent Retreat


Whether it is a laptop, cell phone or tablet, any kind of device that gives you a wireless connection will be a major distraction. Our frequent usage of mobile devices and its resultant positive emotional rewards have conditioned us to a habitual pattern of usage whenever we hold our cell phones in our hands. Our muscle memory takes over and we unconsciously repeat our usual routines of phone usage. In normal life, this is at worse, a time stealer. In a silent retreat, this becomes a distracting idol that disrupts the time you have set apart for the Lord and Love of your life. 

There was one recent retreat where I thought I was able to limit my usage to using the Bible App in my cell phone, and take pictures for blogging and sharing with loved ones. I was fooling myself. I got absorbed in it, and the digital idol took over and became a major distraction from listening to the Lord. 

I felt that the precious time I had set apart to be with the Lord would have been better if I had not bought that Thai local SIM card at Changi Recommends. If I needed to communicate with my family or church office, I could do it when I arrived on the first day. Most cafes there have free wi-fi and I could have communicated my whereabouts from there. I regretted falling into temptation and learned an expensive lesson.

An even greater distraction is urgent work. Do ensure your work will not chase after you where you are. Finish whatever you have to before the retreat proper begins. 


Silent retreats can be forbidding and we wonder how 16 to 18 waking hours will pass. We may think one way to pass the time is to bring along books for work, for spiritual nourishment and for leisure. Most books are not helpful and may not flow in tandem with what the Spirit is wanting to accomplish in you. Why not let the spiritual director guide you in your meditations and readings if any? Let him or her sense what God is doing in your soul and direct you to scripture passages or spiritual exercises that will facilitate, and not hinder, God’s ongoing deep work. 


It is natural that when you are in an unfamiliar place or overseas for a silent retreat you would want to get to know your environment and surroundings. Some exploration is inevitable and with it the joy of discovery of new sights, things, and experiences. However, if you put on the tourist cap, looking for things to buy and see and experience, it will be a distraction from your main purpose of seeking God. 


We Singaporeans are used to a high level of comfort. Our standard of living Is first world. However, retreat houses are not five stars hotels, not even three stars hotels. They are modest spaces designed for worship, prayer, quiet and rest. 

The mattresses are not Simmons or Sealy, but definitely better than a sleeping bag. Some have en suite bathrooms but many, especially in Asia, have common bathrooms. They are not restaurants. You wouldn’t queue up for the food, but it is balanced and we Singaporeans could all do with eating less anyway. 

There are very comfortable retreat houses but they are more expensive and often found in Western countries like Australia, Spain, USA and England. 

Accepting that the comfort level is not ideal in retreat houses, and being mentally prepared will go a long way in helping you focus on seeking God. If you are fixated on fixing your comfort level, you will be totally distracted. Do what you can as you anticipate some problems with comfort, like, bring your own pillow if it is really necessary!! But accept what cannot be changed, and pray for the grace of enduring hardship like a good soldier of Christ. 

What are some major distractions you have experienced in your silent retreats? Share it with all the readers by writing below in the comment box.

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Almost Everything You Need to Know About Having a Silent Retreat

With the Covid-19 pandemic curbing travel overseas you may want to consider using your annual leave and savings to find real refreshment and rest in God’s presence. Consider going for a silent retreat in 2021. People who found that with their regular travel plans dashed, staycationing does not really give you a sense of refreshment. A complete change of scenery was what it took in the past for a re-charge. Why not consider a change in perspective: maybe its spiritual refreshment that is needed. Jesus call to us who are weary and heavy-laden is simply: “Come to Me”. So a silent retreat of three, five or seven days may be what you need in 2021.


Seeking God in silence and solitude has a rich biblical tradition that reaches back as far in the Bible as Moses and his 40 days on the mountain waiting on God in silence and solitude to receive what God wanted to reveal to him: the ten commandments. Even Jesus, the One Greater than Moses, sought God in silence, solitude and prayer for 40 days before he embarked on his mission. 

Silence and solitude wean us away from internal and external distractions and expectations, and creates an inviting space for us to pray with greater ease and focus, and to know and love God more.

In a silent retreat we are intentionally withdrawing ourselves from human and digital interaction, to set ourselves apart for a specific period of a few or more days, with the sole purpose of seeking to know and love God more, and to receive whatever graces or gifts he chooses to pour on us. 

While this can be done from home, there are dedicated spaces designed specifically and intentionally to make the space conducive for prayer and reflection. Often these are owned by Catholics because they have a rich tradition in dedicated spaces of silence for retreats that goes back many centuries. The evangelicals are awakening to this need too but there are few in our region.

The blessings of a silent retreat are many and you may experience a few of these: being healed of painful and tough experiences from your past; a freedom from attachments and idols; greater awareness of self, the world and God; an increase of love, joy and peace; feeling you are Beloved of God; and deepening of your friendship with God. Other side benefits are a digital detox, a good rest, and refreshment.

A spiritual director accompanies and guides you as you seek God in prayer. He usually meets you daily in a one to one meeting, to listen what you have experienced in prayer, in order to co-discern with you the stirrings of desires, memories, emotions and hope that have surfaced. He helps you clarify what God is doing in your soul, and how you may respond to Him.


Here are some of the most common reasons:

To seek God for wisdom and peace in decision-making

To rest and recover from feeling stressed and drained

To seek God’s answer to burning question

To seek God’s peace and help because you feel troubled

To make peace with your past hurts, losses, faults

Wanting a closer relationship with God


Use this prayer for spiritual openness to prepare your heart for your retreat- before, during and after:

Father, I ask for your divine presence before, during and after my retreat. Thank you for preparing my heart for this time of intimacy with you. 

I ask for openness to listen to you speaking to me through the insights and feelings that will come to me at this retreat. May I be attentive to the movements of grace in my heart, as you lead me in prayer, worship and intimacy.

Remove obstacles and distractions that may prevent me from receiving from you. 

Open up my mind to the life-changing truths of your Word, and give me a new understanding of who you are to me and your personal love for me.

Touch me profoundly so that my life is changed by your living presence in my heart. Thank you for loving me and for reaching out to me.

 I worship you. In Jesus name. Amen.


Ask yourself why you wanted the retreat: what’s your specific purpose in making a retreat?

Find out more about the retreat house. Probably someone had told you about it but if you could see photos and videos and read about the place you will be more physically and psychologically prepared.

Pack sufficiently for comfort and safety: mosquito repellent, medicines, personal toiletries, flask, cap, comfort dried foods, favourite beverages.

Do not bring stuff that distract you from prayer and rest. The basic stuff to bring are: Bible, journal, stationery(for coloring or artwork), earphones, cell phone.

If possible, do slow down your pace a few days before your retreat. Most times we are anxiously getting things done and handing things over till the very last minute. 

Do not miss the group or personal preliminary session, if any, as they delineate the theme or give reminders of the right attitudes for the retreat.


In your first meeting with the spiritual director share why you came for a retreat and how much experience (or lack of it) you have in making a silent retreat. (Most people begin with a day retreat, moving on to a two- or three days retreat, then a 5- or 7- or 10- days retreat. They gradually increase the number of days as they see the need and benefits of doing so).

The first day or two are usually for you to settle into the new environment, and to rest physically and emotionally as much as possible. A tired body and a stressed mind are not conducive for listening prayer. Frequently, it begins with rest, relaxation and light reflection and the first meeting with your spiritual director. 

Do not be afraid to tell the spiritual director it is your first time in a silent retreat and ask for some instruction on how to pray and what to do during a retreat. 

After that first session, the spiritual director will tailor the programme or schedule according to your needs and his sensing. If structure helps you, schedule your day into several one-hour periods of prayer and journaling. Perhaps two periods in the morning, one period in the evening, and one at night. If more or less is expected, add or subtract as you see fit. Some retreatants prefer structure while others prefer a spontaneity and freedom to pray, walk, sleep, meditate whenever they want to. A sage once said, Pray as you can, not as you must.

Some silent retreats have more organized group programmes and schedule so retreatants gather daily for a fixed period to experience God together in some activity like a contemplative walk, or the Eucharist, or an hour of recollection. (As the silent retreat may include retreatants of different Christian traditions or physical fitness level, retreatants may discuss any wish to withdraw from any activity with their spiritual director).

Observe silence throughout the retreat unless yours is a preached group retreat that may have periods of interaction interspersed with silence. It is not called a “silent” retreat for nothing.

Avoid distractions like social media, doing work, watching videos, surfing the internet. Wean yourself from the need to use your mobile: this is a form of “virtual” silence and solitude. 

Record your key insights, emotions, memories, images in a journal, voice recorder, or cell phone. Our memories cannot be trusted, and simple records will enable us to see significant patterns and repetitions, and recollect experiences.

Before meeting your spiritual director pick the main issues, emotions, memories, desires that surfaced during your times of prayer. It is not a time for you to rattle the cognitive Bible study insights and lessons you have gleaned from your reflections, but more importantly focus on the emotions and desires.


It depends. Some retreats include the stipend for the spiritual director in the overall cost of the retreat. Others do not. You have to ask if it is not clear.

A stipend is simply a gift of money to appreciate the services or ministry of the spiritual director, who in some cases, depend totally on retreatants’ or directees’ generosity to support themselves and the services they offer. It is sometimes called a love offering given out of gratitude for services rendered. 

The amount is not fixed in most cases, though Kingsmead Centre, a local retreat house, recommends $30 per session of 45minutes or 1 hour for its spiritual directors. This is only a recommendation but should not make you feel bad for giving less, nor hinder you from giving more if you wish to. You can even give a stipend or love offering even though it is already included in the retreat cost.


Recollect and review all that the Lord has done in you, or shown to you:

-Did I experience movements during the retreat? Examples: moved from fear to peace; condemning and hating myself to accepting my weaknesses; from hopelessness to hope; temptation to resolution and strength; confusion to enlightenment; from lukewarm prayers to strong desire to pray.

-What graces have I received during this retreat? Examples: strength; awareness of my weaknesses and sins; realization of my helplessness and need of God; experience of praying for longer periods; more accurate knowledge of who God really is; assurance about a decision to make; freedom from a shameful past or an addiction; honest sharing from my heart with spiritual director; a good rest.

Share with others you trust what the Lord has done for you and showed you during the retreat. Request prayer for the faithful follow-through of decisions and plans you have made during the retreat, if any. If there is none, do not kick yourself or force yourself. Get out of that productivity mode – God’s way is higher than our ways. Most times leaving the retreat feeling beloved of God, or at peace with God and people, or rested and refreshed is all you have and need.

Seek to incorporate some of the practices you have learned during the silent retreat. For example, you may want to set a time of daily prayer. Or practice silence and solitude for a half-day every month. 


Some Catholic retreat centres like Kingsmead Centre, Lifesprings Canossian Spirituality Centre, Good Shepherd Oasis have in-residence spiritual directors who can accompany you in your individual retreat. They may also offer group retreats with themes and programmes. Some centres, for example, Montfort Centre have excellent retreat facilities available but you have to arrange for your own spiritual director.

If you need individual spiritual direction or a full silent retreat you may write to Kae Ng at for more information about upcoming retreats for 2021.

For those who want retreats led by experienced Protestants retreat directors, may I recommend Rinda and Simon, my friends and ex-colleagues in the church staff. You may want to take a look at Listening Inn and click on Calendar for their years schedule of group silent retreats.


I remembered my first full silent retreat. It was about a decade back. We went to Seven Fountains Spirituality Centre in Chiangmai. I wrote what it was like for me. You may get an idea of what it was like by reading this. Click HERE.


If you have questions to ask about silent retreats feel free to put it in the comment box. God bless you.

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Chau Son Retreat 2018

This silent retreat was for seven days in early December. It took a day to travel to the Cistercian Monastery near Dalat, Vietnam: two hours by flight to Ho Chi Minh City; a 45 minutes domestic flight to Dalat, and a final hour by bus to this cool weather mountain retreat. It was the same hours returning to Singapore. One day of re-entry program was added.

The retreat proper began with a half day of orientation and then grand silence began and continued for seven days. Each day we met with our chosen spiritual director. There were 28 retreatants from Singapore and Malaysia and 6 spiritual directors. Securing this slot was difficult as the guest rooms were often occupied from local needs.

I enjoyed the retreat, and will post about it later after Christmas and New Year. However I did manage to make some simple slideshows from the photos I have taken. Three slideshows to be exact. Apple makes it a breeze. But only after I have loaded the photos from my Android Samsung Galaxy Note 5, which was quite a chore.

The first slideshow, is the most complete one which shows the beautiful grounds, some of the food we ate, and the one day Dalat re-entry program before we flew back.

The second slideshow excluded the food section, and allows more time to appreciate each photo and stir nostalgia.

The final video are my favourite photos.


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Refreshed at Seven Fountains Spirituality Center

The Ignatius Block where most men stay

It had been six years since I last had my silent retreat at Seven Fountains Spirituality Centre under Fr David Townsend. Church friends who have gone there recently have told me of changes in the center, as well as outside. Like the newly tarred roads and new animal residents in the center; the gentrification of the surrounding areas; the barring of Chiangmai University and its lake to outsiders; and the new shopping malls and cafes that have opened.

Pastor Eng Hwa and me at the BOAT restaurant

Eng Hwa, a pastor from Praise Evangelical Free Church kindly did all the bookings. The week we wanted was fully booked. We asked if there were available dates earlier or later and praise be to God we took the five days available the week before. We also booked a hotel room nearby for a few days, so we could extend our prayer retreat, as we were graciously permitted to use the retreat facilities and grounds, during the extended stay outside the center. Both of us were assigned a local Thai spiritual director, a Fr Saichon. When the dates were finalised we booked the Scoot tickets at SGD$233 each.

My spartan bedroom with attached bathroom

With insect gauze and nice greenery for room view

We arrived at the center around one plus on a hot afternoon and after settling in our rooms went out to look for food at the BOAT restaurant. During the light leisurely late lunch we decided to start silence from dinner onwards. After unpacking, I needed a bath and a nap. It had been a long day.

The next day spiritual director saw me and he got to know my background and experience in prayer retreats. Then he handed me the prayer and meditation for the day. I was asked to do a “faith history” for the first day, and on the second and third day, a “vocational history” with several passages of scripture each. Over the several days I set aside time to pause, pray and ponder, and allow the Lord to lay on my heart what He had for me. I had no major decisions to make nor much processing to do, so I was more relaxed and open. Suffice it to say that at the end of the retreat, I felt very grateful, enlightened, reassured, strengthened, and left the retreat with a sense of assurance, anticipation and excitement about what laid ahead for me.

I had to tackle some emergency work from the church though. The retreat center does not allow for retreatants to use the wireless (though they have wireless equipment installed). So I had to retreat to a Art Cafe nearby, buy a cup of coffee for 60-80 Thai baht to access free wireless to complete two pieces of urgent work. Thank God this did not affect the rhythm of the retreat.

Bird in the glasshouse (Art Cafe)

The Art Cafe is a unique cafe. It looked like a glasshouse and it housed the owner’s pet merbuk, a lovely songbird. Initially I was taken aback but later I got used to this energetic friendly bird.

I was glad that the local Jesuit priest was my spiritual director. It is good that Asian spiritual directors have been trained so that there is less dependency on the Caucasian priests. We have this bias that prefer the Caucasian as we think they are superior. I think we need to break that mentality, and learn to trust the Lord to use the locals to give good direction. How else can they improve unless they have more and more experience? I was blessed by Fr Saichon and I could sense the Lord was using him to direct my meditation and prayer times. “Some trust in horses and some in chariots, but we will trust in the Lord”. Praise God.

Fr Saichon local Thai Jesuit priest

I could not sleep well the first night due to an overdose of caffeine. So the next day it was only one cup a day and an hour of brisk walking in the evening at the park at the Chiangmai University entrance. All apprehension about not being allowed into the university disappeared, and so I got bolder and went farther to the Angkaew lake. No security officer stopped me. The lake was such a peaceful place for exercise and relaxation.

Breakfast in BED hotel

After the retreat we moved to the BED hotel and spent mornings in prayer at the retreat center and the afternoons and evenings in long walks, and having our meals at the Maya Shopping Mall about 15 minutes walk away. We caught some movies too: “Walk With Me” a documentary about mindfulness; “Kingsmen” – an action comedy that ends up being good at neither; and “American Assassin” that feels as fast-moving and exciting as Bourne Identity. I saw more movies at Maya Mall in those few days than in two years in Singapore. I returned home refreshed, recharged and reassured.



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