What is a retreat?
A retreat is an intentional time away to experience a new awareness of the presence of God. It is an opportunity to get some distance and see things in perspective. It requires a pace that is unhurried and conducive to rest and relaxation in order to come back with a renewed sense of living as Disciples of Christ. A retreat is a chance for an encounter with God, with other people, with creation, with issues, with self. A retreat is an intentional strategy to withdraw from everyday life.
What is the purpose of a retreat?
When we retreat, it is not for the purpose of just getting away and staying away. Everything involved in getting away, and all that is done while away, involves coming back with a renewed faith and sense of purpose in our spiritual life. “We go to the mountains not to see mountains, but to see the valleys with a new perspective.” “Hopefully, we will deepen our relationship with God by intentionally reflecting and meditating.” Whether you do this alone walking down by the river or by talking and celebrating with others, it is needed in order to come back with a renewed sense of love.
A retreat refreshes and revitalizes, gives the opportunity for more time spent in prayer and contemplation, and rekindles and deepens one’s relationship with God. One may take this opportunity to more clearly hear God’s call and to seek God’s healing grace and thereby attain a degree of spiritual renewal. The purpose of a spiritual retreat, as an addition to daily spiritual activities, is to temporarily leave behind the usual distractions we all face for a time long enough to allow relaxation and for an inner change to occur: the ongoing conversion of heart that is critical to deepening faith. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes the necessity of such retreats: “In the fever and agitation of modern life, the need of meditation and spiritual repose impresses itself on Christian souls who desire to reflect on their eternal destiny, and direct their life in this world towards God.”
Retreat in Scripture
Jesus modeled this pattern of celebration and reflection, and it is instructive for people today as well. Retreats deepen the fellowship of a community through shared experiences and can focus the energy of a group, whether your purpose is to do planning, problem solving, team building, to tackle a topic of interest or concern or just to have fun. (From Keith and Gretchen Asbury and the Gambrells – Owners Roddy Tree Ranch)
It is not only modern life that sends us forth to a period of quiet contemplation.” A scriptural basis for understanding the importance of retreat that long preceded the modern world is easily found.” We can turn to Jesus’ actions and his suggestions to others as transmitted in the gospel accounts. Near the beginning of Mark’s gospel, this is relayed: Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’ (Mark 1: 35-37; see also Luke 4:42)
He undertook his solitary respite not when there were no other important matters to tend to, but because of the essential need to make time for prayer despite all the things to be done. Sometimes Jesus would spend an entire night in retreat: “In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12). And, this is also relayed: “The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. “He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while. People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. (Mark 6: 30-32) No doubt, the apostles were energized by the response of the crowds they encountered, but they still needed a chance to recharge before carrying on. (from ITM)
Making Time for Retreat
The Gospel story of Bartemaeus, the blind man, gives us a hint at the faith experience of a retreat. He cries out to the Lord for help in curing his blindness. The Lord asks what he desires and he says, “Master, let me see again!
We seek, in a retreat of any form, to see beyond the surface of our everyday life with all its highs and lows. Extracting ourselves from this daily routine, we enter into an atmosphere of solitude and peace. We take the time to see and feel the presence of our God below the surface of our daily movement and find God in the 120 acres of nature, in the quiet of the chapel or our room, and in the nourishment of the sacraments and the scriptures. We need to take the time to see our life with a new or renewed perspective. We are called to challenge our own priorities. We plan for our future with God as a more intimate player in our daily life.
Why “Be Still Here”?
The work of a retreat ministry, like the one at the Marianist Retreat & Conference Center, is to help their guests connect with their God. And how do we do this? “We do this by offering the gift of silence.” Henri Nouwen once wrote:
Silence requires the discipline to recognize the urge to get up and go again as a temptation to look elsewhere for what is close at hand. “t offers the freedom to stroll in your own inner yard, and to rake up the leaves there and clear the paths so you can easily find the way to your heart. Perhaps there will be much fear and uncertainty when you first come upon the ‘unfamiliar terrain’, but slowly and surely you will discover an order and familiarity which deepens your longing to stay home. whenever you come upon this silence, it seems as though you have received a gift, one which is ‘promising’ in the true sense of the word. It promises new life. It is the silence of peace and prayer, because it brings you back to the One who is leading you.”