I just got back from a five-day retreat with my community of the Schoenstatt Movement.
It was wonderful.
Before going, I tied up all my loose ends – or as many as I could, as effectively as I could – and pledged to refrain from newsfeeds, social media, and any unnecessary email communication. Basically, that was just about all the emails that landed in my inbox during that time. I texted only with my kids since I never allow myself to be completely cut off from them (for my sake as well as theirs). I ignored all incoming calls and only returned emergency ones (there weren’t any).
It was like heaven on earth.
For the first time in a far-too-long time, I could hear myself think. Better yet, I could hear myself pray and I could hear our Lord’s answers to me. I’d almost forgotten what my own inner voice sounded like and it took some effort to refamiliarize myself with the pure, unobstructed voice of God.
It was indescribably delightful.
I’d almost forgotten what it feels like, and that tells me that I’d let too many months pass in between. Going on retreat should be a familiar feeling, not a foreign one.
It’s so easy to let things slide! Life gets so busy that one day slides into the next and the next and then the next. Before you know it, it’s been months – or perhaps years – since you’ve taken time to be truly alone with God and away from the rest of the world.
It’s time for a retreat.
Some might think that going on a retreat is a frivolous thing, a pie-in-the-sky notion for those who have the luxury of “extra” time (and money) on their hands. I’ve heard others refer to people who go on retreat as “holy rollers” who have a distorted view of reality and the role of religion and spirituality in their lives. Others assume that retreats are only for consecrated religious and clergy members.
I can assure you that I’m none of the above.
Fact is, I never have extra time (or money) on my hands, am most definitely not obsessed with religion or spirituality and am not a clergy member or a consecrated religious. I’m an average person with an extremely busy life who yearns to be closer to God and grow in holiness. Retreats lift me up and out of the push-and-pull of everyday life and give me a chance to take a breath, refresh my tattered mind, body, and soul and still my wayward will so I can better follow God’s will.
Additionally, there’s a misconception that going on retreat is a “Lent thing” that needn’t be considered during other times of year. I disagree. Although spending time on retreat during Lent can make it more fruitful, the time for a retreat is when you sense that you need to push the pause button regardless of what the calendar says.
Taking time for a retreat is so important that Jesus himself set the example. In between the major steps in his ministry on earth, he went on retreat. For example:
- Before his baptism by St. John (Lk 3:21-22) (Lk 4:1-13)
- Before curing the sick and possessed (Mk 1:25) (Lk 5:15-16) (Mk 6:31, 33, 46)
- After feeding the five thousand (Mt 14:13-21)
- Before choosing the Twelve (Lk 6:12)
- Before telling his disciples of his impending Passion and Crucifixion (Lk 9:18, 21-22)
If our Lord himself needed to go on retreat – even if just overnight – how much more so do we who are prone to sin, failure, and confusion?
After the disciples returned from their mission of teaching, preaching, and driving out demons, Jesus implored them to take some time for themselves, not only to physically rejuvenated, but to do so spiritually as well.
He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. (Mk 6:31).
You and I also need to come away by ourselves to a place of rest, solitude, and recollection in the presence of God.