A retreat is “taking time to go apart from the normal things of life in order to spiritually rest and get refocused. In the Gospels there are a number of times where our Lord went and spent time alone with the Father in prayer and times when He invited the apostles to do the same. He’d say, come apart by yourselves for a little while and rest awhile. And they would go upon a mountain somewhere out in the wilderness and they would spend time in intimacy with God. And that’s the heart of what a retreat is—making time to put aside the normal things that distract us from God and from what really matters and to really focus on the Lord and His role in our life,” explains Fr. Ben Cameron, priest of the Fathers of Mercy who travels around the country giving parish missions and retreats.
For some, the thought of taking a retreat can be intimidating. “For most of humanity’s history, the world was basically silent. You’d go out in the wilderness and you would hear the wind, you would hear the birds and the squirrels. We’re afraid of that. Even when I walk, sometimes I can hear the electrical lines. People didn’t have that until recently. We’re afraid of that silence and what will happen, and I think part of it is we’re afraid of what we’re going to hear, that we might hear the voice of God … speaking in our hearts, and we’re afraid of what He’s going to say sometimes and what He’s going to push us toward,” says Fr. Cameron.
God wants what’s best for us and the only way to overcome the fear of something that’s good for us is to face it. And once we do it, we might come to like it, explains Fr. Cameron.
Time on retreat can be wonderful for opening your heart to listen to what God has to say. “He always has something to say to us, but sometimes it’s more simple. Sometimes we go on retreat and we might just be reading and reflecting on scripture or on a holy book … and we read a little bit and we ponder it. We just be silent and ponder it and take a walk and think about what we’re reading and sometimes, something will come and hit our heart. And that can be God speaking to us.”
“It doesn’t have to be anything that’s hitting us over the head with something that’s completely new or unexpected. Sometime His voice is very gentle and sometimes we don’t hear anything, but Saint Teresa of Avila used to say that spending time with God is like a servant waiting on the King, and if the King calls upon you and wants to talk to you or needs something from you, that’s great. But if he doesn’t, the very fact that you were there waiting on him, waiting in the wings for him to call, you’ve still been faithful,” says Fr. Cameron.
God knows what you need. He may be calling you to growth or healing. Perhaps he knows you simply need some silence and recuperation. You won’t know what God has in store for you on that retreat until you take it.