Do you ever just feel like life is wearing you down and your spiritual “gas tank” is running on empty? It's not unusual to experience “dry spells” in our spiritual life. One way to deal with or even to prevent these dry spells is to go on a retreat.
To retreat is to pull back to a place of safety, away from something that poses a threat or danger to our physical well-being. Sometimes in life, we need to pull back from those everyday experiences that pose a threat or danger to our spiritual well-being as well. In other words, we need to retreat: to withdraw to a place of “safety” so that we can re-group and prepare to once again head to the front-lines of life.
Spiritual retreats are nothing new. Buddhists and Hindus have practiced retreats for thousands of years. For Christians, when it comes to retreats, we take our lead from Jesus who himself retreated to the desert for 40 days and 40 nights before beginning his public ministry. Christian retreats can take many forms. They can either be a solitary or a community experience. Retreats can be silent or they may involve conversation and sharing. Retreat centers may be rural or urban (although most opt to be away from the hustle and bustle of city life and more in touch with nature).
In general, retreats include presentations by retreat leaders who offer guidance in prayer, periods of silence for reflection, opportunities to meet with a spiritual director, and communal prayer. Retreats may be “packaged” for a weekend, a day or evening, several days, a weeklong, and even 30 days, which is the amount of time that St. Ignatius of Loyola established in order to practice his Spiritual Exercises. No matter what size or shape a retreat comes in, it is basically a time of quiet reflection when you can get away from the demands of everyday living in order to get a better perspective on your life in relation to God.
You can get help locating a retreat center by contacting your diocesan office. A good online directory of retreat centers is www.findthedivine.com.
God is not found exclusively in retreats. However, retreats help to restore our ability to better recognize God in our everyday lives. Retreats are temporary. When a retreat is completed, we are to make an about-face and head right back into our busy lives, carrying with us the grace we need to rise up to the challenges of everyday life.