This coming weekend is the retreat for the 23 candidates for the Diocese of Knoxville and their wives, and I will be among those 23 candidates. As of today, my wife will be joining us on Saturday at least (it can be difficult for both of us to get away at the same time because arrangements have to be made to care for our animals), but I have been looking forward all summer to this retreat as much for the reality that I need to make retreat as much as for the theme and the retreat master, Father Andreas Hoeck. Father Andreas, who is rector of St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, is not only a great scripture scholar, but someone whose deep spirituality and love for Jesus and the Church is infectious. He gave the retreat for the deacons of the diocese this past year, and I have been told that some of our deacons came away deeply moved by what the Holy Spirit brought them through Father’s ministry. I’m looking forward to what the Holy Spirit may open our minds, hearts, and souls to this weekend. He was our instructor on the Pauline Epistles and on the books of the Bible attributed to St. John the Apostle.
I’ve written here at Life At 25 before about the importance of taking a retreat, and the need for retreats not just for priests, deacons, seminarians, and deacon candidates, but for all of the people of God who can. Your kitchen table could be a place of spiritual retreat if you can manage nothing else. The reason for this need is best summed up in the very realities of our daily lives, which often leave very little time for personal reflection. While we should all “make time” for prayer, there are many days when making time for prayer is literally what I am doing, because it does not seem as though the time is actually there (even though it truthfully is). Making time for a retreat is one great way to make more time for God.
When people visit monasteries or religious houses, they will often say how peaceful that they feel the atmosphere to be in such places. What they are often feeling is the work of the Holy Spirit. People who have a vocation to the religious life do not have lives that are perfect, there is no such thing in this life, but they do have lives that are devoted in a special way to prayer. Those who live a specifically monastic religious life have prayer as the primary focus of their daily routine, for the Benedictine motto is Ora et Labora-Prayer and Work.
The overwhelming majority of people aren’t called to the monastic life, however. Even most priests, and certainly most deacons, are called to live their vocations out in the wider world. For most people, the business and bustle of daily living is a part of their vocation, and if they are going to be serious about their spiritual lives and relationship with God, they have to adapt their days accordingly. Sometimes that may mean getting a bit caught up in the things of the world which can draw us, however unintentionally, away from the things of God, even if only partly so. That’s why we need the spiritual tune-up of a retreat from time to time.
Pray for all of those who are on retreat or who may soon be, wherever they may be, that they might experience the refreshment of the Holy Spirit.