The chapel at the Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre located in Niagara Falls, Ont. Photo courtesy of Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre

Carmelites help find God within

By 
  • April 5, 2014

Spiritual direction is a valuable tool in deepening prayer life and building a good relationship with God.

So Fr. Stanley Makacinas is excited that Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre in Niagara Falls, Ont., has added a Carmelite priest who specializes in this area.

“We’ve offered it in the past . . . but for the past four or five years, we haven’t had one on staff,” said Makacinas, director at the picturesque retreat centre that overlooks the falls.

Born and raised in Chicago, spiritual director Fr. Michael Wastag spent the past 15 years at a Carmelite retreat house in New Jersey. After it closed due to funding issues, he joined the team at Mount Carmel last July.

“I’m not a counsellor,” he said. “I’m not a therapist. What I do is I sit with people, I listen to their story and I try to help them discern where God is active in their life and what God might be trying to do for them.”

Part of the Carmelite way of thinking is that you don’t discover God outside of yourself.

“The best place to find God . . . is inside of you,” he said. “The Carmelite tradition is to go within ourselves. It’s the tradition of all the mystics.

“You go within yourself to discover God but then what you end up doing is you find yourself,” Wastag said.

But this process can be difficult because you have to find your truth — which includes the beauty you have within, as well as the ugly parts, he said.

As part of the retreat experience, participants will have the opportunity to meet with Wastag.

“People come here to be quiet,” he said. “We offer an eight-day retreat as well as weekends to give people a taste. They’re in silence. They’re in solitude. They eat meals together but there is no talking.”

It is amidst the silence that people start “going inside.”

“It takes about three days to quiet down and move inside. And so, as they enter deeper within themselves, it’s hopefully deeper in their relationship with God.”

And when the retreatants meet with him, he listens to what’s happening inside them and then offers suggested Scripture readings along with exercises.

“Then they’re to spend the day in prayer or walking around and being with Him,” said Wastag.

The Carmelites have been operating at Mount Carmel for more than a century. Today they offer workshops, retreats and conferences for people of faith who are seeking a quiet place to pray and reflect. They also host conferences for various religious and educational groups.

For more information, visit them online at www.carmelniagara.com.

(Santilli is a freelance writer in Toronto.)

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