Divine timing

The Greek term ‘kairos’ denotes the precise moment when God’s purpose intersects with human lives. This is a major factor in retreats and immersions.


By Daniel Ronchetti, Director of Faith and Justice, St Aloysius’ College, Milsons Point  

Kairos, in ancient Greek philosophy, meant the opportune moment or the right moment for action. It signified a critical, fleeting moment in time when conditions were perfect for the accomplishment of a crucial task or the realisation of an opportunity. 
In Christian theology, the word kairos holds a specific and profound meaning. Unlike the Greek concept of chronos, which refers to chronological or sequential time, kairos signifies a different kind of time – a time that is divinely appointed, significant and opportune in God’s plan. 
In Christian understanding, kairos moments represent God’s appointed times, where His divine purpose intersects with human lives. These moments are seen as special, often transformative opportunities for individuals or communities to experience God’s presence, make crucial decisions or fulfil a particular purpose in line with God’s will. 
In their final years at St Aloysius’ College, students are offered the opportunity to participate in two significant experiences: a kairos retreat and an immersion. These senior years are the perfect time for the deep contemplation required to fully appreciate these experiences. 
During these years, students undergo a complex process of self-discovery, exploring various roles, values and relationships, influenced by internal reflections, external influences and supportive relationships, ultimately shaping their unique sense of identity and self. Students are discovering the world and their place in it. The kairos retreat and our immersions help define this for students and allow them to truly see what it means to be?men for others. 
I have been fortunate to see the distinct impact of both these experiences this year. I travelled to Arnhem Land on an immersion and participated in a kairos retreat during the school holidays. In each of these experiences, participants have had their own experience of divine timing: that sense that I am here at this very moment, in this very location, doing this for some greater reason to provide me with a greater purpose. 
But how do we know when is the right time to jump feet first into one of these experiences? Do we ever really know? 
Wayne Gretzky, the greatest ice hockey player of all time, put it this way: you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Take the shot! 
We live in a world where people often play it safe, a post-pandemic conservatism, a world where risk assessments are as long as Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’, where the term “helicopter parent” has been coined. Further to this, we live in a world of ultimate convenience. No one does anything inconvenient anymore, even though that is often where the gold lies. 
The American philosopher Abraham Maslow wrote, in any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. Educators will tell you that learning is not about filling a bucket but lighting a fire; it is about pushing people out of their comfort zones, encouraging them to explore the unknown and empowering them to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and discovery.   

Our Kairos retreats and immersions do this in their own way. The word kairos is about seizing those fleeting moments of opportunity. Grasping your chance. In 2024, our immersions will include a Remote Indigenous immersion to East Arnhem Land, as well as international immersions to Timor-Leste and the Philippines. 
The College’s immersion program is at the heart of our Ignatian spirituality to develop a faith that does justice with a preferential love of the poor. Immersions provide students with opportunities to move beyond being mere tourists, beyond poverty tourism, and to engage in service that will require them to roll their sleeves up and get their hands dirty. 
Immersionistas do not stay in the relative safety of their luxury airconditioned coaches and watch the conditions of the disregarded from afar, but they come to know and love the people they encounter, relishing their shared humanity. Our immersions intentionally push participants out of their culture – and hopefully their comfort zones as well – to learn more about themselves, the world, God and his people. 

One of our Year 11 students put it rather eloquently late last year when describing the impact the Philippines Immersion had on him and his fellow Immersionistas: “After the immersion, we returned transformed. More compassionate, hopeful and mindful. Initially, our teachers warned that articulating its impact would be a challenge, and they were right. Months later, we still ponder our experience, integrating it into our daily lives. Patience has grown, generosity flows freely, but the most profound change is our reformed perspective. When the chance arises to go on an immersion, do not hesitate. Embrace it all – the memories, the laughter, the new bonds. Embrace the most extraordinary three weeks of your life.” 
When contemplating whether to participate in either a kairos retreat or an immersion, I would refer any student to the 1989 Oscar-winning movie ‘Dead Poets Society’ and its main character John Keating, played by the late Robin Williams, who famously quoted Roman poet Horace saying, “Carpe diem”. Indeed, seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary!

This article was originally published in a recent edition of ‘The Gonzagan’ newsletter for St Aloysius’ College, Milsons Point. 

Photograph by Ravi Pinisetti / Unsplash