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What do you do when the going gets tough? Retreat!
Posted By Eric Sammons On September 3, 2010 @ 7:39 am In Spirituality | Comments Disabled
We all know that modern life can be antithetical to a deep spiritual life. We are distracted in a million and one ways, our culture despises and fights against true spirituality, and the daily demands of modern living can crush our efforts to grow in holiness. What do the saints and spiritual masters recommend as the response to such difficulties?
A spiritual retreat, that is. One of the bedrocks of a true Catholic spirituality – whether Franciscan, Ignatian, Carmelite or anything in-between – is that every person needs to take a spiritual retreat on a regular basis in order to recharge their spiritual batteries. The format of the retreat varies – it can be self-directed or directed by a priest, one weekend or a whole week or month, made with others or in solitude. In all cases though, the length usually needs to be at least a weekend to be fruitful. A retreat is a time in which we can look at the “big picture”: How are we progressing in the spiritual life? Are we sticking to our promises in prayer and works of charity? Are we putting Christ first in our lives every day? Such questions are very difficult to access objectively and seriously in just a few minutes and between emails. They are questions we need to spend time and deep prayer in answering.
I can attest to the value of such a retreat. For the past eight years, I have made sure to take a weekend retreat (usually at Holy Cross Abbey  in Berryville, VA) in order to get away from the routine and draw closer to the Lord. These times of intense prayer and meditation have always been fruitful, and have often been the source of insights that would not have been possible without escaping from the daily grind. Our minds need time in order to refocus; I know that the one commonality of all my retreats is that I need Friday evening to simply “detox.” My mind is racing in a million and one directions and I cannot relax. But by the next morning I find that my daily worries subside and I am able to focus on the “one thing necessary.”
Almost anyone can make a retreat – nursing mothers are a noteworthy exception – and everyone should make one on a regular basis (most spiritual directors recommend annual retreats). We need to be trained to fight the spiritual battle we are called to fight, and retreats are a great way to receive that training. One of the best strategies for winning the war in the spiritual life, therefore, is to retreat!
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 Holy Cross Abbey: http://www.hcava.org/
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