First of all, we need to understand what a retreat is, and why it is important to embark on one.
Retreat simply means having withdrawal for quiet time to reflect and meditate on one’s life. It is a special time set for solitude, prayer, and penance.
In both religious and spiritual sense, when a person says that he is going to a retreat, he means that he is withdrawing from the society to a quiet place for prayer, study, to reflect or to meditate. This exercise usually covers a period of a few days and it is usually held at a religious house.
A retreat helps one in finding their purpose in life such as a religious vocation. It serves the purpose of spiritual growth and improving one’s closeness with God.
In recent days, retreats for lay people often take many forms, but usually involve a weekend, a week or sometimes longer away from home and familiar routines, usually under the direction of a Priest, with talks, reflections, and also plenty of “alone time” for prayer and spiritual reading.
- Be sure to attend a retreat that is conducted by an organization truly faithful to all the teachings of the Church and our Holy Father.
- The retreat should be preached, and should provide daily Mass as well as the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation – and if possible, some spiritual directions.
- Find a retreat that is at least three days long – and reduce or eliminate the use of email, texts, and smartphones. These can be seen as Lethal Weapons of Retreat Destruction. Try to abstain at least for the period of retreat.
- Why am I doing this? To get some rest? To feel good about me, to look good to family and friends? Or to grow in the love of the one with whom I hope to spend eternity with?, And share my love of him and his Church with others? These questions can guide you.
- Carry along with you the New Testament and at least one spiritual reading book that you intend to finish by the end of the retreat. Also, arm yourself with a notebook for jotting your impressions and resolutions for your return to the outside world.
- Irrespective of the fact that this is a focus on self, remember to pray for family, friends, and those most in need, including general intentions such as praying for the Pope, the Clergies, praying for the dead and the defense of religious liberty and marriage.
- To help your night’s sleep and keep you alert during the meditations and talks, if possible, get some exercise, such as a long walk while praying the Rosary.
- You could go with some friends (but minimize the talk and pray for them instead).
- Do some follow up after the retreat is over, check your written resolutions weekly. It is important that you do not make too many so as to avoid being overwhelmed, be honest with yourself and your spiritual director (if you have one) to hold yourself accountable.
- Start thinking of everyone you want to invite next year. Pray for those you intend to ask and give them plenty of lead time as well as specific dates and places. Also, encourage them to bring their own friends?
- Finally, you need to familiarize yourself with the example of Pope Francis because, yes, he attends an annual retreat too. Read what he says in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium(The Joy of the Gospel), Chapter 2: “Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound revelation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others. As it expands, goodness takes root and develops. If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good. In this sense several sayings of St. Paul will not surprise us: ‘The love of Christ urges us on’ (2 Cor 5:14), ‘Woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel’ (1 Cor 9:16).”