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
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
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
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!