Why All of Us Including Religious Need a Yearly Retreat
Friday, January 7, 2011
By Father Mark Mary

This past week, the friars had their yearly retreat. Church law requires religious communities and priests to make a five-day retreat every year. I know our life is already oriented to communion with God and contemplation in the schedule that we keep. Daily, we pray the Liturgy of the Hours, offer Mass, and make time for the rosary, adoration and meditation. Confession is also readily available as well.

It sounds like a perpetual retreat in some ways, so what is different about a retreat for a religious? First, it is a break from work. At times, Jesus would call his disciples to take a break: Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while. (Mark 6:31) Today, most everyone is busy with activity and work in some way, including religious. Even our freeways are like the Indy 500, and our minds are constantly being stimulated by constant media bombardment in some form or another. Like a continuously drawn bow, we all are in danger of breaking in half.

I realize many do not have the means or the time to come away and rest awhile, and I thanked the Lord during the retreat for the privilege of being able to spend some down time with Him. But even if in smaller portions, this rest is needed. But a retreat is more than physical rest. In our ordinary routines, we can all get into a rut and not really be listening to the Lord and following Him. Retreats, for me, are times to remember the initial call; to get back to basics and rekindle the fire that drew me to this vocation in the first place; to keep on our eyes on Him, remembering His words: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)

Any renewal in the Church or on a personal level is a coming back to Jesus. Maybe we have strayed in our motives or priorities. Maybe we have taken our eyes off of Him and the wind and the waves seem too strong for us. Or maybe we have just lost sight of the cross. It is really at the foot of the cross that we receive strength and the right trajectory in our lives. We can all fall into a relationship with God that just focuses on what is He doing for me. The crucifix reminds us that Jesus and His sacrifice on Calvary is at the heart of the kingdom. This is where His kingdom was born and where it is nourished. To be part of His Kingdom means to share in His cross and to give of ourselves in our vocations here on earth.

A retreat is an anointed time where God gives special graces. As in the spiritual life as a whole, there are struggles and difficulties at times, but God is there in the struggle. He loves us and is leading us. Hopefully during the retreat, we can experience His love and presence in a deeper way. Fr. Brian Mullady gave us our retreat this year and he did a wonderful job as the Lord worked through him. The retreat was a blessing for me, and I hope to give to others what was given to me this week.

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