Where is Your Retreat?


This afternoon, I found myself, like most afternoons, rushing from one project to the next. My task list drawing me to it in the same mesmerizing, mundane way a hamster wheel calls to a rodent. Then, in a moment when I felt like all the tasks I was doing would never truly be completed, I stopped and listened. A bird was perched in a tree and communicating a simple song.  I decided to take a moment off the hamster wheel and listen to its chirping. I became caught up in its song and decided to hangout for a minute and just listen. Its cadences and calls making no sense yet somehow calming my spirit. In that moment, I experienced a small retreat from the work-a-day world, In that moment, I remembered that life is more than a task list.

This experience is not uncommon for people. Everyone has somewhere they retreat. For some, its unhealthy habits like drinking, gossiping, or binge watching Netflix. For others, it can be something more beneficial like exercise, spending time in nature, or reading. Everyone has a place they go when life gets too crazy. It’s as if the restlessness becomes so unbearable we have to find a place to rest.

Even Christ took time from His public ministry. In Mark 1:35, the author states that “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. In another passage, John 6, a rather humorous episode takes place. Several thousand people cross a lake to find Christ resting. The following conversation ensues.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal. “Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” ~ John 6:25-29

They just don’t get it. They are so focused on getting a never ending supply of bread that they miss the point. They want Jesus to give them everything. They press Him for answers that involve satiating their own restlessness. Don’t we often do this? We seek for answers to our lack of peace in everything but Him? His answer is clear. You must believe in Him. Jesus Christ is the only answer to our restlessness.

This is why the Catholic Church encourages retreats. By getting away, stepping off the hamster wheel, and re-encountering our God, life becomes clearer. Peace enters our hearts and then, when we return to our daily life, we bring the reality of God with us. Suddenly, we start to see our lives as more than a to-do list. We see that relationships matter. Our relationship with God and our relationship with each other. Then, we begin to determine our day less by what we “do” and more by who we encounter. This is the value and goodness of a retreat.

This year, the youth group will be taking a retreat to the Steubenville Atlanta Conference in Georgia. From July 12-14, we will “escape” together and move into the “wilderness” of our hearts and seek the Lord. We will remove ourselves from our summer jobs, tasks, vacations and amusements and spend some quality time with each other and with the Lord. After the experience, we hope to return with a fresh outlook on our lives and to better live the gospel.

As one teen from last year put it “”For me this weekend was transformative in so many different ways. It helped me understand God’s love for me and how he wants the best for me in every way. It has pushed me to want to fix my prayer life and grow closer to God.”

That’s why retreats are so essential. Whether it be a weekend away or just taking a moment to listen to a bird sing the glory of God, those experience help us move deeper into the heart of God and come to realize that we are meant for more than our day-to-day tasks. We are meant for an eternal destiny. Retreats remind us of this. It’s when we take retreats that Christ “shows us the way to great things, the good, towards an authentic human life” as Pope Benedict said at his inauguration ceremony.

If you are interested in attending the Steubenville Atlanta Conference or in financially supporting a teen in attending, please email Ken White at kwhite@olmc.org

by in Youth Ministry