Why go on a spiritual retreat? — By: Catholic News Agency

“A retreat is a moment of prolonged personal encounter, without distractions, with God, and in God, with oneself,” says Father Guillermo Serra. / Credit: Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 6, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Four Catholic priests shared their reflections in answer to a simple but very important question for the life of faith: Why go on a spiritual retreat?

Father Antonio Domenech Guillén, a priest of the Diocese of Cuenca in Spain, said that “a retreat is always worthwhile, especially during Lent and Easter, those more focused times that help us bring our hearts closer to the Lord.”

“We always need it. Jesus says in the Gospel that ‘those who are healthy do not need a doctor, but only the sick,’ and if we recognize that we are sick, the Lord heals us every day, and a good way is to go on a retreat to be cured, like the person who goes to a hospital, to the doctor,” the priest explained.

“If you give your time to God, he multiplies it like all spiritual goods. Material things we part with, they are divided up. If we split the firewood two ways with the neighbor, we have half the firewood; if we share the inheritance with our brothers, we have less inheritance.”

However, he continued, “everything that is spiritual — faith, hope, love — the more you give, the more you have. And if we give the Lord time, he will make it bear fruit, because he doesn’t let himself be outdone in generosity.”

Father Guillermo Serra, LC, lecturer and author of the Spanish-language books “Leave Your Heaven” and “Jesus to My Soul,” reflected along similar lines. He explained to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that “a retreat is a moment of prolonged personal encounter, without distractions, with God, and in God, with oneself.”

“We live a very fast and sometimes superficial life. There are many outside demands and expectations that prevent us from hearing the voice of God and our own inner voice,” he explained.

“Dedicating a time for a retreat allows us to hear the voice of God and see more clearly how God wants to be known, loved, and possessed,” the priest emphasized.

Silence and ‘the desert’

Serra also highlighted the importance of silence during a spiritual retreat: “Silence is fundamental as a condition for the possibility of this encounter with the love of our life, our Creator and Redeemer.”

Thus, a retreat “fills us with life and returns us to our world with peace and with a sense of transcendence and more generous openness to others,” he noted.

For Father Francisco Javier “Patxi” Bronchalo, a priest of the Diocese of Getafe in Spain and author of the Spanish-language books “When Sex Traps You” and “Saints or Nothing,” the “desert” experience is important.

“Going on a retreat is entering that desert with God and with oneself, seeing how life is in the light of the Word of God. When we see how our life is going in our eyes or those of others, we often do harm to ourselves,” he pointed out.

On a retreat, on the other hand, “we put God in our lives and thus we mature in our faith, giving it depth and seeing what the Lord is saying to us in the concrete events we experience,” he said.

Father Juan Solana, LC, founder and director of the Magdala Center, which currently offers virtual retreats in the Holy Land, commented that “going on retreat means going off apart, and you don’t go off apart to evade the world, to escape from the world — on the contrary, the concept of a retreat in the Christian life is to get away from the noise of everyday life, from the routine, to dedicate oneself more intensely to prayer and to encountering God.”

“It’s like when you climb a mountain and see the complete panorama of everything, you see it from above, you see it clearly, and when you are down walking in the valley you lose perspective on many things,” the priest told ACI Prensa.

In addition to encountering God, he pointed out that when on retreat “we also encounter ourselves,” because many times we live our lives out of touch with ourselves.

Domenech encouraged the faithful to go on a retreat if there is an opportunity to do so: “If you doubt [the benefits], if you have the opportunity, go on a retreat. It is the moment, it is the now of Jesus.”

Ana Paula Morales contributed to this article, which was originally published in 2023 and has been updated.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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