How To Make a Retreat, Part I

Having grown up in the pre-youth ministry age of Catholicism (the 70’s, at least in my hometown) it wasn’t until I was a college student that I actually went on retreat. Our Newman Community sponsored a weekend retreat each year about an hour away at The Abbey of the Genesee in upstate New York.

The usual peer activities were appealing enough: shared prayer, talks from the Trappist monks, music jams, and meals together. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours with the monks in the chapel was a new experience for me. Singing, contemplation, and silence: what a spiritual feast! I joined the prep team for future retreats. Why? I got to go to the monastery guest house Friday morning and often had most of the day in silence before the rest of the students arrived.

After college, I sought out other retreat experiences: the Cenacle Sisters, Madonna House in Combermere, the Trappists, the Benedictines, the Carmelites, diocesan centers, and all over North America, too: the Atlantic shore to the Rockies, Kentucky hills, northern Michigan lakesides, the rural Midwest surrounded by farmland. Just before my Master’s Degree comps, I tried to talk the Jesuits into thirty days of silence. They demurred. I settled for eight. Maybe one day I’ll make it for a whole month.

A few years ago, I prepared an article for a publication. The piece was eventually spiked, but I thought I’d resuscitate it as a series here.

The Church would do well to encourage retreats among your average lay Catholics. Many believers find one really great experience. And they go back to seek more of the same. I wouldn’t argue that’s the wrong way to go, but it’s not the only way.

My practice has been to vary locations, directors, and styles. Benedictines of various stripes have guided about half of all my retreats, but my latest experience was directed by a Franciscan.

Before a body can enjoy the variety, it has to get to a retreat.

Anyone in the commentariat want to put in a good word for their first retreat experience? Otherwise, we’ll continue again in a few days.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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