One director counseled me to never enter into a retreat with an agenda. In the sense I’ve never prayed five to eight days straight on whether I should get married, enter the priesthood, take this job or that, I’ve kept to that advice.
However, I have gone on retreat at key times in my life: the end of graduate school, before getting engaged, after major surgery, or as a job search commenced. I’ve still tried to empty my mind of expectations, and usually the grace shown me has been a surprise. Stay in ministry, when I was feeling burned out. A confrontation with my personal compulsions and the realization I was as addicted as my boss, my grandparents, and the addicts I knew in school and at church. There’s not always a clarity in terms of a focus, but often I find myself confirmed to head in a certain direction. Afterward, life sorts it all out.
When I go away to be alone with God, I take it very seriously. And God seems to take it seriously too.
Another director advised me to get as much rest as I could in the early days of a retreat. It’s part of the letting go. It’s also important for me, as I’ve found the last few days of a week’s stay growing intense and full of late night prayer. The best nights’ sleep of a retreat are almost always the first and the last. I do not discount the value of rest, both for recovering from life in the world and for fortifying myself for the struggle ahead.
Have I convinced any readers to give it a go? If you’ve never retreated, try a men’s or women’s weekend, or maybe a parish retreat, or a theme that appeals to you. Many of you have probably been Encountered, or made a Cursillo, or a youth ministry event. Perhaps you might try a weekend at a monastery. Do you dare to try it in silence, or maybe for a few more days? Let the Spirit nudge you.
Maybe I’ll see you on retreat … but don’t expect me to say anything.