The beauty of a retreat…
I spent the weekend at the lovely Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House in Sedalia, CO for our annual Knights of Columbus retreat. Until this point, I hadn’t been on a retreat since I was 16 (almost 20 years ago!) so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
This particular retreat house is situated on 280 acres outside the small town of Sedalia, over an hour drive from where I live. On the way down, I was thinking about my last retreat experience and how this might measure up. I arrived to the beautiful grounds and immediately understood that this was going to be a peaceful, relaxing place oriented towards true reflection.
The two day program was divided up around the primary principles of the Knights of Columbus: charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism. Father Ed Kinerk was our spiritual director for the weekend and provided us several presentations to move us toward prayer and contemplation of each of these themes. Father Ed presented some very complicated theological concepts in an approachable way… I especially found the discussion on charity, love, and forgiveness the most inspiring. He spoke at length about the importance of love in the practice of our faith, and that we could not continue to true charity and unity without focusing on loving like God first.
Most of the time in between presentations was spent in silence, to allow us to truly pray in an introspective manner. Father Ed counseled us regarding how best to image Christ as we prayed, so we could make a more conversational and real connection. He encouraged us to speak to Christ as if we were speaking to a friend, but not to apologize as we did this. It was an interesting challenge for me, because I didn’t realize how much my inner prayer life was based on apology for my inadequacies. You can read more about this philosophy of prayer in Father Ed’s article “Meeting God for Lunch“.
After the first afternoon of presentations, I ventured out onto the 30 acre area that had paved pathways. The views of the fall colors and the prayer areas were astounding. It was inspiring to look around and see other men in silence, many with rosaries in their hand or sat in quiet reflection. We were welcome to talk during our lunch and dinners, pray on our own, go to Confession, or just continue to explore the grounds. After Mass, we returned to silence and I once again made it out onto the trails praying on my own and listening to the nighttime sounds. I had brought a few books with me on the trip, so I closed the evening by reading “Lukewarmness: The Devil in Disguise” by Francis Carvajal by the fireplace. Sleep came easily after that, and was very restful thanks to the silence in the building.
We concluded the retreat with two more sessions, closing with a special session to take these lessons and apply them to our daily life. This was followed by Mass and then some social time, however I left quickly after Mass so I could be with my family for the remainder of the day.
I took away some practical advice from this weekend. First, silence is important in prayer. Second, trying to understand God’s love as it relates to charity and forgiveness is a lesson that I will be thinking about for quite some time. Third, learning to image Christ as I pray in more real terms really helps to deepen the experience of prayer. It becomes less of recitation and petition and more conversing with a friend that goes far beyond any other friend we can have in this life. Last, and most important: I’m not going to let it be another two decades before I go on a retreat again. The amount of spiritual benefit that was had in two days was far worth the time spent away from my family and the small amount of money that was charged. I returned to the “real world” feeling very recharged this afternoon, and I look forward to carrying that feeling into the work week with me.