Retreat to advance


If you are a pilgrim on a journey of faith, you have probably been on retreat.

If you haven’t, then here is an attempt to describe what a retreat is, and what you can expect to gain from it.

People who travel overseas know that when they return home they will be different.

That also happens spiritually when we go on a retreat.

Retreats come in all lengths – one day, two days, a week, thirty days – but each usually offers the following:

A contemplative space that takes us away from our normal work-day activity.

Some input from a retreat director or leader who invites us to go wider and deeper in our spiritual journey.

An important time of silence in which we take our reflection to the deepest level of prayer.

Safe and confidential sharing of journey.

A movement into “the peace that passes all understanding…”

As a retreat facilitator, I prefer to call a one-day retreat “A day of reflection”.

In a day, we may not have the spiritual movement we would get in a retreat of a week or a month, but we usually feel refreshed and strengthened.

On the longer live-in retreat, the day usually begins with prayer and the readings of the day. We are in silence except for the time each day when we see our spiritual director.

Later in the day, there is usually a Mass.

The silence in a long retreat becomes so profoundly rich and giving that it’s sometimes difficult to go back to a noisy world!

This always reminds me of Jesus, his times of prayer in a wilderness environment and how he took the result back to the people.

A retreat with Christ Jesus does that for us.

So how do we find out where our retreat centres are in Aotearoa?

The Catholic Directory is a good start.

There will be a list of retreat places in every diocese. You can phone and find out what is offered.

I’ll finish this with something from an 88 year old woman who told me in a few words what a retreat is about.

At the time, I got permission from her and the group to use the quote.

There were 20 people on that day of reflection and I had given them a task. They were to write their own credo. What they believed at the moment of writing.

There were some interesting creeds, and some very like our standard creed.

But the statement that came from this elderly woman made us all sigh with pleasure.

She read: “I believe in less and less and more and more.”

That’s it.

It’s about releasing and gaining; it’s the journey of faith that happens on a retreat.

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator. Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator. She will be one of several participants at “Lifting our Eyes” an Ignatian Spirituality Conference.


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