- On December 16, 2010
A religious retreat is a time of personal encounter with God. It is not a workshop. It is not a seminar. The single focus of a retreat is the intimate relationship between God and us.
A good example of this is found in the marriage relationship. A married couple could decide to go somewhere for a weekend for any number of reasons – visiting family, religious pilgrimage, sports event etc. Any of these things could be a great experience for the couple. But, if they wanted to take some time just for each other they probably wouldn’t do any of these things. They would go somewhere where they could be alone with each other and away from all the cares and issues of their lives because the focus of their time would be only each other. In such a setting they could be present to each other in a way they could not be in the midst of their daily lives. This opportunity would allow them to grow closer, deepen their love, and find that center that provides the ground and source of their marriage. Couples are encouraged to do just that from the best of marriage counselors.
A retreat is like that for our relationship with God. It is not a time to solve our problems; although after the retreat we may be able to address our problems with a clearer head and deeper personal strength. It is not a time primarily designed for learning, although we are like to discover new things on a retreat.
A retreat is a time to be with God, to grow closer to God, and allow God’s grace to touch us where we most need it; and often we’re not even sure where that is. So at a retreat we simply put ourselves at the disposal of God’s grace by getting away from the ordinary cares of our lives and give ourselves an opportunity for silence, for worship, and for directed reflections – usually rooted in scripture and offered by the retreat directors – designed specifically to help us in this journey. Sometimes, though not always, a retreat could also include communal reflection done in a community of faith. In such a setting we can be sure God will work, because God desires this closeness to us infinitely more that we do.
Anyone who is serious about the spiritual life, or who seeks regular spiritual direction, needs to take a few days of retreat –normally on an annual basis, or at least every other year – to allow the fruit of the spiritual life to integrate, deepen, and grow.
Those who participate in Fishers of Men groups are certainly prime candidates for an annual retreat and ought to consider this as an important part of their program of spiritual growth.
Father R. Bruce Cinquegrani
Episcopal Vicar for Divine Worship, Spiritual Life, and Catechesis
Diocese of Memphis