Retreat 101: Advice for making a fruitful retreat

Feeling spiritually exhausted? Is your zeal running low? Maybe it’s time for a retreat! Retreats are a great way to rest and renew your relationship with the Lord. They can help you get back on track or deepen your already strong faith.

There are so many kinds of retreats—silent retreats, retreats for married couples, ones that focus on a particular spirituality—so it’s easy to get overwhelmed at the possibilities. If you’re looking to find what’s right for you, here’s some advice from Franciscan Brother Greg Cellini to get you started!

Look local

You could go big and fly across the country to a beautiful retreat house, but not everyone has the time or resources to do that. Look local and find a retreat that fits your budget.

“I was surprised when I started doing my retreat years ago … just how many retreat centers there are just within a 20 to 30 to even 50 mile radius. There are a lot of different retreat houses from Franciscan to Jesuit to Benedictine,” said Brother Greg.

Search online, check your parish bulletin, talk to friends, or check your diocese for retreat recommendations. You’re likely to find many to choose from.

man prays holding bibleStart simple

With so many options for retreats, where should you begin? If you’ve never been on a retreat before, Brother Greg’s advice is to start small with a shorter weekend retreat that is guided by a retreat director.

“I would recommend [you] start with a directed retreat. I must share with you, I am an extrovert … so to start with a silent retreat where literally you’re silent for three, four, or five days is very difficult and can become overwhelming,” said Brother Greg.

For someone who has more experience with retreats, now’s the time to expand to a several day or even weeklong retreat. Start small, and build upon the retreat experience as you go.

Set aside expectations

Ever get yourself really excited for something and the actual event was so different from what you built up in your mind, that you ended up disappointed? Don’t do that with your retreat! Set aside expectations and schedules and allow yourself to be open to the Holy Spirit. It’s possible that what God has planned for you is totally different than what you expect.

“I learned the hard way when I started going on retreats—I would go with an agenda,” explained Brother Greg. “And I learned that I literally need to take a blank sheet of paper with me and to say, ‘God, it’s your agenda the next three days … I want you to write your agenda on my heart. It’s not about me trying to dictate the agenda to you.’”

Above all, be open to what God has in store for you. Do your best to find a retreat that will challenge you and encourage you, and then let God work through the speakers, reflections, music, and sacraments. Happy retreating!

For more advice about retreats, listen to the full conversation with Brother Greg:

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Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.