1. What is a retreat?
A retreat is a series of days passed in solitude and consecrated to the spiritual life. It is as old as Christianity. Our Lord spent forty days in the desert after His baptism, preparing His great mission of restoring man to the friendship of God. From this divine example sprang the eremitical and monastic life. These men and women sought places of solitude, withdrawing from the world in order more readily to draw nearer to God and apply themselves to Christian perfection.
In the fever and agitation of modern life, the need of meditation and spiritual repose impresses itself on Christian souls who desire to reflect on their eternal destiny and direct their lives in this world towards God. The retreats offered at our retreat centers are normally the five-day Ignatian Exercises.
2. What kind of person is a retreat for?
Retreats are for ordinary people at any time in their lives. They are for all ages and all sorts of backgrounds-factory workers, the unemployed, students, housewives, businessmen, engineers, the retired, grandparents. Different in so many ways, we still have a common goal: the glory of God and the salvation of our immortal souls.
A retreat means taking time away from your ordinary life and situation. You may be stepping away from a busy, demanding workload that can be hectic at times. You may be taking a break from family and household duties in order to invest precious time for your soul. Who cannot help but pause upon hearing those merciful words of Our Lord, “Come to Me all you that labor, and are burdened, for I will refresh you”.
3. What should I expect on a retreat?
You should expect a healthy balance of guided meditation, communal prayer, instructive and inspiring conferences, silence and solitude, all disposing your soul for the great graces God has in store for each one of us. This sacred time brings a revitalization of the soul, mind and body.
You are provided with a clean, comfortable, private room. The retreat master regulates the schedule and there is a bell indicating the next activity. During the meal, there are readings at table to help you keep the spirit of the retreat.
4. I do not have time. Is a retreat so important?
Now let us look at this realistically for a moment, and we will see the fallacy of this reasoning. We were created by God for only one ultimate purpose: to know, love and serve Him and in so doing save our souls. If we achieve that, our life is a success; if we fail at that, all is a failure. If we cannot make time for God in a serious way by a retreat every few years, in spite of the importance given it by the saints, the popes and our priests, then perhaps the short time of our life is being spent for the wrong purpose. Perhaps we have the wrong goals and priorities.
5. It seems like such a long time. Why spend a week on retreat?
The value of any action is determined by its effect, not by how much running around we do in the process. We claim that our greatest hope is to spend eternity in heaven, knowing and loving God and resting in Him. How is it then that we cannot find one week to spend with Him now? One week doing essentially what we hope to do in heaven, knowing, loving and resting in God? If heaven is not a waste of time, then neither is retreat.
6. Am I allowed to talk on a retreat?
The five-day retreat is in silence, aside from private consultations with one of the priests.
This quiet environment helps separate you from the distractions of the world, your cares, stresses, preoccupations and responsibilities. This is vital for the soul to focus on God and necessary for the soul to hear God speak to it. The behind-the-scenes work of the experienced staff helps to move everything smoothly with little distraction.
7. Is spiritual direction available?
Yes! It can be difficult to see a priest for regular, private spiritual direction these days. The retreat offers this opportunity. The retreatant is able to consult with one of the priests on a daily basis. These five days offer sufficient time for the priest to listen, help you to see your place in the eyes of God, and encourage you in your day-to-day life. He will also help you make good, practical resolutions, assist you in developing a life of prayer, and suggest good literature to continue feeding your soul. The private consultations with priests during the retreat help us apply these lofty truths to our individual situations in life.
8. I am afraid of a general confession. How will I remember the sins of my whole life?
If many others have succeeded in this, so can we with the help of God’s grace and the guidance of the priests. If others have found it most helpful in the amendment of their lives, so will we. If we still think that a general confession is hard to face, consider facing the General Judgment ill-prepared. Ask anyone who has made a general confession if he regrets making it.
9. What kind of place is a retreat house?
The retreat houses are essentially houses of prayer.
The whole ambiance fosters the recollection of the soul away from the busy and noisy world. They are institutions built for this specific purpose and have a whole team of staff members who maintain the buildings and grounds.
10. What do I wear while on retreat? Should I bring anything special?
Since the retreat houses are also houses of God, you are requested to dress becomingly out of respect. A comfortable pair of shoes is recommended for walks during your free time.
11. What if I have special needs?
If you have any special needs (diet, general health), make this known at the time you register. (St. Ignatius Retreat House in Ridgefield, CT has a retired nurse on staff.) The retreat houses have accommodated the needs of countless retreatants over the years.
12. What happens after the retreat?
Leaving the quiet, contemplative atmosphere of the retreat house and returning to the demands of life can be a challenge. The wisdom gained at the retreat helps you apply the lights and graces to your life back in the world. And the retreat master’s regular letter to former retreatants helps keep alive the fire and fervor in your lives.
13. Is there a fee?
Besides donations from friends and benefactors, normally the retreat houses do not have another source of income and therefore charge the retreatants a nominal fee in order to cover expenses of room and board.