How To Go On Retreat When You Can’t Go On Retreat

 

St. Catherine of Siena, National Catholic Register, Marge F enelon

The Chapel on the Rock (officially, Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel) near Allenspark, Colorado. (Source: L. Chang, via Wikimedia Commons)

I recently wrote a post for National Catholic Register about our innate need to take time away from our day-to-day lives in order to focus on God and our relationship with him.

In my post, I wrote:

Some might think that going on a retreat is a frivolous thing, a pie-in-the-sky notion for those who have the luxury of “extra” time (and money) on their hands. I’ve heard others refer to people who go on retreat as “holy rollers” who have a distorted view of reality and the role of religion and spirituality in their lives. Others assume that retreats are only for consecrated religious and clergy members.

In general, the post was well received. There was one reader, however, who disagreed with me.

In a comment, he wrote:

Yes, it’s nice to away to a retreat for 3-5 days, but many people are so hooked to their smartphones for work, it’s nearly impossible. Since many people are unemployed, are in low wage jobs/careers, are underwater in debt, or not able to afford to on retreat. Many retreats costs money and people keep their vacation days for some other time, or people aren’t given many vacation days at all. This for few are beneficial for those whom can pull it off, but for others it’s not even worth (literally) considering and would consider something close to home & can do a few hours a day.

He has a valid point. It’s true that for various reasons folks might find it difficult to get away.. It’s also true that some retreats can cost more than our budgets can afford. If I understand him right, this gentleman felt that retreats are only for those with enough time and money to be able to “pull it off.”

Maybe. Maybe not.

Retreats don’t always mean using up precious vacation days, infringing on essential responsibilities, or digging into scanty bank accounts. In fact, making a retreat doesn’t have to require time off of work or spending money. It doesn’t necessarily mean going anywhere; it can be done without even leaving your home.

Making a retreat is not as much a verb as it is a state of mind. You can be on retreat right this minute, and where you are right now.

There are plenty of people who go on retreat without actually going on retreat. In other words, they may spend the money and they may travel somewhere, but the time was wasted because the person spent it focusing on what he left behind rather than what should have been before him – God.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

If you can’t get away physically to  make a retreat, then get away mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It  isn’t as hard as it sounds. Here are some helpful tips for making a retreat right in your very own home and using time and resources that you already have.

  • Choose a time. Making retreat won’t just happen; it has to be planned for in advance. Choose a day (or days) for your retreat and schedule it in your calendar, whether it’s a few days or a few hours. Can’t manage an entire day? Then block off parts of days even if you can only manage an hour or two for several days in a row. You don’t have to take vacation from work; use the time you already have off.
  • Clear the way. Take care of mandatory responsibilities ahead of time or make arrangements to postpone them until after your retreat or for someone else to handle them while you’re “away.”
  • Close it down and turn it off. Shut off everything that can be shut off in terms of technology. Even if you absolutely have to check in periodically because of work or family obligations, secure periods of time in which everything is turned off – phone, computer, laptop, television, whatever. The goal here is to give yourself distinct pockets of silence for contemplation.
  • Have a goal in mind. That might sound like a contradiction, because making a retreat is all about listening to, and following God. But, upon entering a retreat it’s good to have a goal in mind even if God abruptly changes it while you’re retreating. Do you simply want to feel God’s love? Do you want some direction for the next step or steps in your life? Do you need to regenerate after hardship or heartbreak? What are you seeking during this retreat?
  • Choose an area of focus. It’s not enough to secure time for silence; you need to decide ahead of time how you  will fill that silence. Will you read Scripture? A book on the Saints? What devotions would you like to pray to help center your mind on God? Do you have questions you’d like to pray about during your retreat? Don’t let the time slip by. Prepare to fill it with spiritual food that will nourish your soul and expand your mind.
  • Be consistent and persistent. The “nasty guy” wants anything but for you to draw closer to God. And so, he’ll do everything and anything he can to distract you and stop you from growing spiritually. Don’t let him! Of course, your mind will wander and there will be interruptions – whether they be from your own self or external factors. So what. Get back on track as quickly as you can and refocus yourself on your methods and goal. Most importantly, refocus on God. Don’t allow yourself to become discouraged, don’t give up, and don’t become frustrated.

Making a retreat is easier than you might think. Sure, it’s great if you can get away physically to an amazing place. The reality is that you may not be able to do that. Still, you can go on retreat in your own creative, holy way.

Here are a few suggestions for spiritual reading during your retreat:

33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Marian Consecration by Fr. Michael Gaitley.

33 Days to Merciful Love: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Divine Mercy Consecration by Fr. Michael Gaitley.

Consoling the Heart of Jesus: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat – Inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius by Fr. Michael Gaitley

30 Days with Teresa of Avila by Daniel Burke and Anthony Lilles

Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Therese of Lisieux by Anthony Lilles and Dan Burke

Finding God Through Meditation: St. Peter of Alcantara by Dan Burke

Lift Up Your Heart: A 10-Day Personal Retreat with St. Francis de Sales by Fr. John Burns

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