Activism, Horizontalism, “Americanism”,  “Marthaism”, Workaholics—all of these words express the sign of the times—the tendency to put ourselves, our work and our productiveness above God.  Of course, this can be termed a heresy, idolatry, and counterproductive to say the least.

The Psalmist poignantly points out, “If the Lord does not build the house in vain do the labors work.”   Jesus put it clearly with these words:” Seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else will be given to you beside.”  Also, Our Lord and Master asserted:  “What would it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?”

Spiritual retreats are indispensable for the modern man so inclined to activism, horizontalism, to be a “Workaholic!”. 
There was a man who lived in the 15th and 16th century who lead an active life of page in the Spanish court and then soldier, battling for his country!  God intervened with a “Providential accident”, in the battle of Pamplona, which forced this very active many to stop. In silence, reflection, meditation, and examination of conscience, he recognized his need for God, call to prayer, call to conversion.

Then, while in prayer in Manresa, God sent Mary His Mother and gave him the blueprints to the most famous form of modern retreats--- the Spiritual Exercises.   The name of this former activist is  SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA!

The fruits of making a Spiritual Retreat—especially following the Ignatian scheme—are abounding!  Here are a few, to encourage all to seek time to make a retreat with the Lord!
First, SILENCE!   The modern world suffers from “Noise pollution”--- meaning a bombardment of loud, constant and often disturbing noise!   Interesting discovery!  Elijah did not discover God in the thunder, nor the earthquake, nor in the powerful wind, but he did find God in the gentle breeze.   Our retreat is time to feel the gentle breeze of God caressing the depths of your soul!

Second, PRAYER!  God calls all to a life of prayer and a deepening experience of prayer.  God calls us but He gently and humble awaits our response.   Retreat time is a propitious and ripe time to enter into prayer.  St. Ignatius encourages those doing the retreat to separate themselves from their normal environment, so as to eliminate distractions so that the soul can meet God and God can meet the soul in profound and intimate dialogue.   That is prayer: intimate dialogue and communication with God.  St.  Teresa of Avila defined prayer in simple terms:  “Prayer is nothing more than FRIENDSHIP with the Lord; it is spending long times of silence alone with the one I know loves me.”
Third, EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE AND LIFE.   In sin were we conceived and born, sinners we are by inheritance from our parents Adam and Eve, sinners we are in fact and reality--- retreat time also focuses on God’s infinite mercy. However, mercy is related to our own misery--- another name for the reality of sin. Interesting  note on the word mercy from the Latin derivation, “Misericordia” (Latin, Spanish and Italian).  “Miseria”—means what it actually looks like, “misery”.  Sin is moral misery.  “Cordia” means heart.   This best is illustrated and exemplified in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, or if you like, “The Parable of the Merciful Father”.  The Father’s loving heart runs out to meet the moral misery of “The Prodigal” sinful son.  Retreat time paves the way for a serious and deep examination of conscience, repentance, confession and conversion of heart.    The interior fruit in the heart is that of peace.  St. Augustine defined peace as “The tranquility of order”.  St. Ignatius instructs us that one of the primary purposes of retreat is “to order the disordered”. Sin is moral disorder. Examination, repentance, and confession order the disorder in the soul and “Shalom”—peace be with you!
Fourth,  DECISION MAKING.   Of primary importance in the context of the retreat is that of making important decisions.  Actually one of the primary goals and purposes of the Ignatian Retreat is specifically that--- to make a choice as to what state of life God is calling me.  If indeed I have already chosen my state of life--- marriage, Religious life, or the Priesthood—then I do not change my state of life, but reaffirm my commitment to live out to the fullest possible extent my call to holiness in that specific state that I have already  chosen. Unfortunately, with regard to the married state, many have chosen the wrong person, at the wrong time, in the wrong place and with the wrong intention; all of which results in disaster, another name for separation and divorce and innocent but wounded children!  How important the value of a retreat in these decisions that will mark one’s whole life in time as well as in eternity! 

Fifth, FAMILY BLESSINGS!    When I officiate the Sacrament of Matrimony, often during the homily, I stop to ask the Bride and then the Groom what would be the best thing each one of the individually could do for the other to form the best marriage and family? Shocked by the question and tongue-tied, I give the response:  “Fall in love with Jesus Christ everyday of your life!”   Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote a classic on marriage, “It takes three to get married”.  Those three are Mary, John, and most important JESUS!!!! If Jesus is in the center of the marriage, then there will be peace, joy, harmony and many spiritual blessings.    Apply this concept to a retreat! A husband or wife, priest or Religious that corresponds with open mind and generosity of heart to the graces of a Retreat will undoubtedly sanctify his life and the fruits of his life.  Jesus said that we are called to bring forth fruit and fruit in abundance. (Jn. 15, The Parable of the Vine and the Branches).  Holiness is contagious, magnetic, attractive.  Although it did not happen immediate nor overnight, St. Augustine converted--- through the grace of God, but secondarily, through the prayers and the holiness of another saint, his mother Saint Monica.  Retreats fill the retreatant with the grace of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit and this grace and Spirit of God is meant not to be hidden in the closet nor under the bushel-basket but to be shared with the whole world, starting with the family because charity begins at home!

In sum Jesus invites us to rest, to come apart for a time and to spend time with Him.  This is the essence of a retreat--- to leave the world for a short time, to rest in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. With this to return renewed, fortified, strengthened, reinvigorated, spiritually reborn and bring this Good News to the whole world.  May Our Lady who in silence heard and meditated on the Word of God and then brought this Good News to her cousin Elizabeth, inspire us to seek rest in the Sacred Heart of her Son, the Lord Jesus!