In my area, what I like to call “retreat season” is nearly upon us. The parishes are starting to advertise parish high school retreats, confirmation coordinators are trying to find out what’s going on at other parishes, and our diocesan retreats are beginning to be promoted. As we all know, a new liturgical season is also upon us.
Last year, Advent officially became my second favorite liturgical season. I think there are a number of reasons that happened. One of the main reasons is that I started it with a retreat. Earlier in the fall, a friend of mine saw that I was already exhausted the first weekend into September and offered to help me get away for a few days—by offering a place to actually retreat to. A couple of months later, I was able to take her up on the offer. It was wonderful. I had time alone to pray, reflect on what God was doing, and see what He might want to me to do next. I was able to meet with a wise priest and take advantage of the sacrament of Reconciliation.
We might not all be able to go on retreat during Advent, but it is important for us to retreat. We encourage our teens to go retreat for good reasons; those same reasons apply to us. It helps us to hear the Lord more clearly when we step away from everyday life and have more time for prayer. Retreats are a boost for our spiritual lives—hearing good talks, being encouraged within solid community, and getting to partake of the sacraments. We may be at a different place spiritually than the youth, but it doesn’t mean a few days away won’t do us good. When planning a retreat (for yourself), there are a number of things to consider:
- Scheduling —Although no time will be perfect, look at your ministry and family schedule and figure out when will be best. You do not want to be away only to be preoccupied about what you have to return to. For instance, the week before the high school retreat you are running might not be the best time. You also want to take enough time away. Although day retreats can be good, do your best to get away for at least a couple of nights. Decide how far you need to get far away—another state perhaps, or maybe a local retreat center will be the perfect place.
- Type of Retreat—Assessing what you need out of the retreat is important as well. Even though the Lord might have something totally unexpected in store for you, decide if you need a retreat with other people or not. If you feel like it needs to be a personal retreat, do you need a place that offers a guided personal retreats or spiritual direction? If you feel you need a retreat with other people, also look at the theme of a retreat. Just because a retreat is being offered doesn’t mean it is the retreat for you. Ask the Lord to help you know what retreat to attend and where to go.
- Go –There will always be plenty of excuses not to go on retreat. We can come up with the same excuses our youth give, just “grown-up” versions. We are all busy, but once you find the time, place and type of retreat, sign yourself up to go and then follow through. Be aware that just as our youth are often bombarded by last minute discouragements that make them want to drop out, we may be slammed with the same.
Nevertheless, taking an extended time with the Lord apart from our day to day busyness is so good for our relationship with Him. Hear the call of the Lord to “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6: 31). Jesus tells this to the apostles after they had come back from doing ministry. For those of us in ministry, we need to listen to this same call.
LifeTeen is offering Men’s and Women’s retreats in 2011. Consider joining us for a weekend away.