How long has it been since you were on a retreat? A year? Five years? Longer? Or maybe you’ve never been on a retreat and the idea of spending a couple of days in prayer is intimidating.
We know from Scripture that we are called to Sabbath rest, and we know that, time and again, Jesus took time away from the crowds to be with his Father. A retreat allows us to recharge in a deeper way than a vacation does. A retreat reaches deeper into our souls, in a way that can have a palpable effect on every other element of our lives. According to Cardinal Robert Sarah, “When we retreat from the noise of the world in silence, we gain a new perspective on the world. To retreat into silence is to come to know ourselves, to know our dignity.”
Not every retreat is silent, but every good retreat does help us step away from worldly things, detach from the things we’re concerned about, and rest in the Lord. Regularly going on retreat can give us strength to be more fully the women we are called to be.
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In a busy world, it’s not always easy to make a retreat happen. But it also doesn’t have to be impossible. Here we’ll look at three common objections to going on retreat — and the counterarguments. A retreat experience might not be as far out of reach as it seems.
I don’t need it
If you’re in the I’ve-never-been-on-retreat category, then the concept of focusing a weekend or more on (potentially silent!) prayer might seem like a tall ask. You’re not sure you can concentrate that long, and you’re not sure you have enough to say to God. On the other hand, you might feel that you’re in a good place in your relationship with the Lord, and you don’t need an earth-shattering experience.
One of the beautiful things about retreats is the individuality of the experience. Some women are going to come home radically changed, while others will have resolutions to adjust certain minor areas of their lives to be more in accord with their faith. No matter where you are in your faith, time with Jesus is always well spent.
I don’t have time for it
If this is your stance, I’d argue you need a retreat even more than the woman next to you. I speak from experience when I say that the times I feel overwhelmed or stressed are the times when either my priorities have fallen out of line or I’m living through a big change that’s challenging me. In either case, more time in prayer always helps.
The change of scenery that comes from a retreat that takes place away from your home can be great, since you don’t have the distractions of daily life. When that isn’t the right choice — due to illness, lack of childcare or another situation — there are plenty of retreats that can be done from home. Pray More Novenas offers self-paced retreats a couple of times a year. Registration provides videos that you can watch at your convenience. If you do choose to do an at-home retreat, make sure to set a schedule for yourself and stick to it.
I can’t afford it
Most retreat providers won’t let finances impede your ability to participate. If assistance isn’t offered, you can ask for help. You might also use a free resource (the Pray More Novenas retreats mentioned above allow you to choose your price or forego payment all together).
You can also consider asking for a retreat-in-a-book, such as “Jesus I Trust in You: A 30-Day Personal Retreat with the Litany of Trust” by Sister Faustina Maria Pia, S.V., or “I Believe in Love” by Father Jean C. J. D’Elbee for a gift-giving holiday. These tend to require a shorter time commitment (10 or 15 minutes) for a longer period of time (often a month or so), and they can be helpful in establishing a more consistent prayer practice.
It is good for us to be active in our communities and give our energy to living out our vocations each day. But modern women, as much as those in Jesus’ day, need time to rest, recharge and refocus our hearts on Christ, the center of our lives. Consider making a resolution for next year to go on a retreat. And then get excited about seeing the fruit it will bear in your life, as well as in your communities, large and small.