So often I hear people say: “Oh, I wish I could make a retreat, but my schedule makes that impossible or ...” You can insert your own explanation for not making a personal retreat, and it may sound valid. However, so often people don’t make retreats because “I wouldn’t know what to do,” or “That is for holy people and I am not.”
Let me say, unequivocally, that God wants time with us. But he never violates our free will. We can refuse. Please take a look and see what God is asking of you in order to draw you into a deep and personal relationship with him.
Look at the Scriptures. Throughout the four Gospels, we hear such words as: “In these days he went out into the hills to pray and all night he continued in prayer to God.” Or, “Sit here while I go yonder to pray.” Time and again, Jesus gave us the example of his relationship with the Father to teach his disciples how important it was to retreat from daily life and spend time with God alone.
So, you can go to a retreat house and make a private retreat, or you can join a group retreat. Or, why not try an at-home retreat? Although it will take careful preparation in order to make it fruitful, it can be done.
Follow these steps:
- Notify family and friends what you are doing; tell them the time frame and ask them to pray for you.
- Turn off all radios, TVs, computers, family phones and cell phones for the duration of the retreat.
- Stay as much as possible in one or two rooms so you don’t see the need to clean or fix something.
- Decide on the materials you need: Bible, journal, notebook, spiritual reading material, perhaps a CD.
- Decide what areas in your life you want to address. What impedes you from growing in holiness: anxiety, discouragement, anger, lack of forgiveness, selfishness, health problems that cause suffering? Perhaps it is an issue of discernment that is needed to obtain wisdom from the Lord; perhaps it is a major decision that will substantially affect your life and/or the life of your family?
- Spend some time each day of your retreat in the morning, afternoon and evening reading the Bible. Let the word take root in your heart. The word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. (see Hebrews 4:12) In other words, God’s word has the power to challenge, convict and console you. It has power to change your mind and heart, if you allow the word to take root. Talk to God about your life.
For something to take root, you need to till the soil and remove the rocks (repent):
- Go to confession as soon as possible. Water the soil by renewing your baptismal vows, and the promises you made at confirmation. Ask God for the seeds of grace that have come to you through the sacraments to take root. Pull out the weeds (sins) each day; don’t let them grow or take root. Weeds choke the seed.
- Go to Mass as often as possible to receive his precious body and blood. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament bestows many graces on those who make it a priority.
It is hard to accomplish too much in one retreat, but a good annual retreat can set you on a good path. Remember it takes time and perseverance to change the direction of our lives and put us on, or back on, the right course.
Finally, before you end your retreat, make one concrete, practical decision that will help you to draw closer to God and be more the son or daughter he created you to be!
“Fear not, little flock! It has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom!” (Luke 12:32)