There are many different categories of retreats lasting from just a couple of days to an entire month. Below are some of the typical retreats preached by the priests of the SSPX.
What is to be expected from an Ignatian Retreat?
The first part of the retreat involves an intense look at who we really are and what we are made for. It gives us the opportunity to discover and acknowledge all those many weaknesses, fears and failures in our moral character.
Let us face the fact. In spite of all of our efforts each of us has felt dissatisfied at times with the way we live our lives. There are some things that make us uncomfortable because we are too attached to them. We simply love them too much or in the wrong way. A career, a girlfriend or boyfriend, a recreation, a comfort or pleasure, a personal idea or goal, the list goes on and on.
There are others that make us uncomfortable because deep down inside we fear them too much. A debt that needs to be paid, a controversy, a daunting task that needs our attention, an apology that needs making, a dilemma of conscience that we have not found the courage to tell to a priest, a serious look at the possibility of our be called to the convent, monastery or seminary, the prospect of adding to the family yet another mouth to feed. We fear too much to face the problem, or we fear having to give up the object to which we have grown attached somehow.
This first part of the week is spent in locating and addressing these hyper-sensitive areas of our soul so that we can finally find peace. We will never fix the source of the problem the way we are going ... or only once we have suffered for far too long. Enough of this!
How we all long for true peace! It can and will be found on retreat. At the end of this part, we are given the opportunity of a good confession.
The priest, step by step, helps us prepare an excellent and complete confession, one that solves all the doubts and fears of the past. Did I make a bad confession in my youth? Do I need to confess certain things more clearly? Did I fail to make the proper precisions out of shame? I think that deep down I knew how very wrong this or that was, but I failed to ask the priest because I was not ready to change my ways ... To live with such fears is no way to live. The retreat and the priests preaching it are equipped for these kinds of concerns, and they are there for you.
Throughout the rest of this one-week retreat the priests help the retreatant improve his method of prayer. Taking the life and Person of Jesus Christ as topic, the priest will help you step by step to find the prayer life you thought outside your reach. Picture prayer, far from any longer being the distracted burden it seems at present, becoming a rest and reprieve from the hectic world in which we live ... a moment to breathe deeply of realities that will never change. The priest will help us learn to pray; he will tell us what to say and give us ideas of how to say it.
Finally, there will be instructions on how to make the bigger choices in life in a proper and prudent way. How necessary that is, especially when it comes to choices that, once made, cannot be changed! The choice of a spouse, a vocation to the priesthood or religious orders ... those are choices for life. They had better be properly considered before they are made, or we will be the ones to bear the consequences. It is on such retreats that the best of our youth here in the USA find the courage to choose a direction for their lives. You can too.
You have already made an Ignatian Retreat? Then you know very well that you must return!
A Virtues Retreat leaves the priest preaching it a broad freedom to provide the souls of the men or women in attendance with concrete advice on the real problems they need to resolve.
Whatever our state of life or profession, there are moral dilemmas that arise. When is it prudent for me to speak or to remain silent? Do I correct my spouse or friend or child in this kind of situation or let it go for now for the sake of greater considerations? How do I go about asking advice? How do I find the strength to make an unpopular decision? Have I been acting on principles; or simply my own pride? What about my dealings with others? Is this fair and just? Do I need to pay my taxes? How do my spouse or children deserve to be treated? Wherein lies the secret of true and effective leadership?
One young man comes on retreat because it seems to be the only way to make a fresh start and break his bad habit of alcohol or pornography. It is clear that such addictions often need stronger measures than the normal weekly confession.
Another individual comes because he wants to make sure that his life is properly organized and prioritized, lest he serve himself instead of the God he loves
Many ladies come because they want their children to have nothing less than the best of mothers, and their spouses the best of wives.
The term we use is true devotion to Our Lady. But at times it can seem so cold! We mumble our rosaries day after day, while our minds and hearts are far away. Earthly mysteries intrigue us and clutch our minds in their grasp, but the heavenly mysteries of the rosary ... (sigh) how long is this prayer going to last? She can seem so distant. It is time for this to change.
We do desire to look at Her as our mother; we want to love Her with the tenderness that we felt as a child at home. We long to feel her love for us, not just believe in it as a beautiful dream or idea. And rightly so, indeed, for great is the role of a mother in the formation of what is most noble in any child. A child without a mother ... what a tragedy! We must draw close to ours; we must listen to her words. She will teach us how to think, judge, love and pray. She will reveal to us the secrets of her Son’s Most Sacred Heart, what He loves and what He hates. Without a deep knowledge of Our Lady and her ways of working in our souls, we risk remaining childish all our lives.
What is her place in the Church? What place should She have in my thoughts and spiritual life? Why is She so often attacked? Shall I come to her defense? What a pity that so many Catholics, because of lack of love and knowledge, bow their heads and listen to their Mother be defamed, as if they were ashamed of Her! Let us learn of Her Who made saints of sinners. If a Maximilian Kolbe’s life could be changed forever by some thirty seconds spent with Her, what fires of love should enthrall hearts upon such occasions as retreats. To please Her, anything to please Her. Love makes all easy; and it is in loving our Mother that we learn to love.
As so many others, you may come feeling like a forgotten orphan, but leave with a heart preoccupied with the very desire of your Mother. She is not so far away; and one day, sooner than we think, we shall see Her! We shall enjoy Her and embrace Her.
A Matrimony Retreat offers great opportunities to both engaged and married couples.
While separate rooms are provided all to help with the spirit of silence, such a retreat gives that long-desired occasion to establish resolutions in common with your spouse or fiancee, both moving again at the same speed. No longer is it one who goes on retreat and comes home to find the other unprepared to make adjustments and/or changes. It is both “head” and “heart” of the family that hear the same words, heed the same advice and look in the same direction at their goals. Each forms personal resolutions for himself; but that is not enough. They are a unit. They are one, and so they talk quietly together on their evening walks and form the best resolve for both. No one can dispute the worth of having in the priest an objective judge of age-old friction or grudges borne. Practical programs of improvement are set in place that will make daily life better for years to come.
The many couples who never received proper preparation for the beautiful sacrament of matrimony find here that of which they were deprived. To learn the same rules is so necessary for Catholic married life and proper expression of conjugal love, but these rules cannot be covered from the Sunday pulpit. Some things are too sacred for all to hear. A retreat can help to fill this hole.
Moreover, the common mistakes in raising children, which are so difficult to spell out in public without the children themselves thinking less of their parents, can be dealt with here, lest they be realized only too late.
Or as age creeps on and serious changes of life take place, we find ourselves poorly equipped to make decisions on things we had never questioned before. Perhaps it is time to ask advice, as we are not the only ones who struggle with the adjustment and who are called to refine our love.
Some find themselves speaking a different language than their spouse. Maybe it is time for the priest to act as translator? Some see nothing higher than the chores of the day. What is it all for? Over and over again, the same old tasks? Learn to look higher and see your amazing role.
Or is it a problem of forgiveness for true offenses that have cut so deep? One can love another who has sinned, but it is not easy. Sometimes no remedy is enough without a retreat. You may find that mountains become mole-hills on retreat.
Third Order Retreat
There are some who have committed themselves to the service of the Church in more particular ways. While not religious in the strict sense, they strive more than most to bring the ideals and spirit of the monastery or convent more perfectly into their lives in the world. They have made greater engagements, and have placed themselves within structures (that we call Third Orders) so as to grow better and more quickly.
It provides them with a fairly detailed program of life. They see themselves as members of Christ’s Body, rather than alone. Thus they ask themselves how they affect others. Either we are drawing souls to God with us or we are driving them away. What is it? What must improve or change in my approach? Life is serious. There is no time to waste; we realize that. That is why we made this commitment to begin with.
Do we wish to widen our understanding of the Church we love and serve? Or perhaps it is the daily application to our real life that needs attention. A deeper spirit of faith, of hope, of charity?
Do we fully realize the ideals of the Order or Society to which we belong? Do we breathe the same air, the same spirit as the Order's founders, superiors and saints? Are we making the most of our time, of our Rule and of the means it provides us to become holy? We must not sit still. We must not fail to improve in contemplation.
There are three ages in the spiritual life, not just one; and we are not meant to remain childish forever. God wants to call us higher! He reserves many graces for those who come on such a retreat.