Retreat to Move Forward – Raised Catholic episode 41

The following is a transcript from the Raised Catholic podcast. To listen to the podcast, click here.

Holy Cross Retreat House, Easton, Massachusetts

Today is episode 41: Retreat to Move Forward

Well, hi, friends.  What a couple of years it has been, am I right?  We’ve heard the phrase ‘unprecedented times’ maybe more in the last handful of years than we ever have before. We’re all out here walking around in lives that have experienced individual and collective upheaval that we never could have imagined or predicted and yet it sometimes seems we’re pretending that maybe life can and should proceed like it was 2019, as though nothing ever happened or is happening that would change how we live today.  But, the pandemic, along with stark political, environmental, and social realities has changed much of the way we live life today.  Maybe you’re one of the many people whose school and work realities were completely overturned in the last several months. I don’t know anyone whose life went untouched, truly. Certainly, the way we live our community and social lives has been totally upended, and we’re working hard, it seems to me, to get back to normal, whatever that is.

Humans are forward-seeking.  We want to make sense of things. We want to make a plan and move forward.  As a society, we were never going to live forever in that sourdough-bread starter, soup-making, shut-down reality of 2020 that we all experienced, and yet here we are in some kind of in-between, feeling the urge to sprint ahead but not quite sure where to step next. And these days, many of us are unsettled and more thoughtful than maybe we once were – we’re not quite certain that the old ways are ways we’d like to return to at all.  Today’s episode may seem counterintuitive to some of you, but I’d like to make the case that this time in history – when we feel such a surge of pressure to move forward, is actually the perfect time to retreat.

As I think about the retreats I’ve been on in my life and the huge wellspring of ways that they continue to affect my spirituality, I feel kind of like Forrest Gump on the bench beginning the story about his shoes.  Remember when he said, “You can tell an awful lot about a person by their shoes; where they’re going, where they’ve been.” Anyway, the story of the impact of retreats on how I view my life and God today is kind of like shoes, I guess, or maybe more precisely like blood, bones, or air, because I carry each retreat experience with me. They’ve colored my thinking and informed my heart, but unlike shoes, I can’t take them off.  They’re part of me, truly formative, helping me to see life with a new lens, each time gathering a new toolbox of knowledge and experiences that are leading me slowly toward the life I am intentional about living.  

In college, I went on retreat to a monastery in Vermont.  As a young adult, I was part of a ‘busy person’s retreat’ which met at my chapel in short bursts over the span of a few weeks.  I’ve taken a weekend aside on a silent writing retreat by the water. In 2003, I was invited on a weekend retreat called ‘cursillo’ and I’ve been a part of many cursillo weekends ever since.  Each retreat experience was scary at first, but also exciting, and felt like a bit like an open door, not knowing really what to expect but trusting that there was new light on the other side.

I don’t believe that any of these retreat experiences was accidental.  I believe the timing and invitation, the intersection of particular people that were involved, that all of these were somehow part of an unfolding plan that God has for me.  As I look back on each retreat, I can point to new people or epiphanies or illumination that have been formative for the decisions and path that I’ve walked ever since, because we don’t come away from a retreat in the same way that we entered.  We retreat in order to move forward.

In our busy lives, we can often find it hard to find the time to retreat, but maybe the reality is that it’s precisely because life is so busy that we must take the time.  After all, Jesus did that frequently, taking time away to find direction to move forward in His life and ministry, so why wouldn’t we? As Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” but aren’t so many of us doing exactly that these days, moving forward kind of on instinct?  Reacting rather than responding? A retreat gives us an opportunity to examine our lives, to take stock, to assess our priorities and beliefs, and to encounter God who can’t wait to share that time with us in a personal and loving way.  Friend, I really believe that, by the way.  I think God longs for that one-on-one experience with you and me just like a very good parent of a beloved child would.  A retreat is a detour from everyday life and pressures, a time to gather ourselves, consider our lives, and draw close to God who loves us. Taking this kind of time away is a gift that you deserve.

There are lots of ways to retreat.  There are day-long retreats, private retreats with spiritual directors, retreats centered around Biblical study, silent retreats in beautiful places, extended retreats in monasteries or retreat centers with specific programs and content and goals – and so much more, and I’ll link to some resources to help you find a retreat that works for you in today’s show notes.  But also, today I would like to share more about the cursillo program at the retreat house I call home.  If you happen to live near me and would like more information about that particular place and program, I would be so happy to answer any questions for you, so please reach out, but also, just know that cursillo is a world-wide program of Christian renewal that you can find in many places, so I’ll link to more information on the broader program, too.

Cursillo is a three-day program and each day there are talks, reflections, mass, opportunity for reconciliation, and discussion on a number of faith topics.  Many of the talks are led by laypeople, that means not clerics, so lay men and women, but there are priests that participate as well, and you can participate in those discussions as much or as little as you’d like to.  In my experience, there is a good amount of laughter, great food, and connection, all the things we that might be needing some more of these days.  Somehow, in the course of the weekend, people tend to hear something from God which is personally for them. It’s kind of mysterious, I guess, but also totally how God works: meeting us personally where we are with what we most need. Anyway, when I lived cursillo, I was a young Mom at home with two children, and what I did not yet know about my faith was a lot.  I walked away from that weekend with a bit more knowledge and a toolbox that continues to grow, but also with an experience of real encounter with God who loves me.   And even though I was raised Catholic Christian and was soaked in ideas about God’s love from way back, I’m not sure I had ever known that reality for myself. Because knowing, really knowing that you’re seen, known, and loved by God – well, that changes everything, don’t you think?

As you consider retreat possibilities around you, I’d invite you to stop, breathe, and listen to where the Lord might be leading you today.  Maybe someone’s invited you on retreat or maybe you recently saw a reference to a retreat in your area.  Maybe the Holy Spirit has brought this podcast to you for such a time as this. Friend, be not afraid. This world is crazy, chaotic, and unpredictable, but God is bigger, and He loves you and there’s nothing He’d love more than to draw you closer to Himself today.  So, stop and breathe as I read this scripture from the Book of First Kings about how He speaks to us in a time like ours, not in the chaos but in the quiet:

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.  And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, 

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:11-13

Hm, what are we doing here, friend? Answering that question, or just beginning to answer it, well, that’s a big part of why we’re here, and a retreat would be a great way to start. One thing I know for sure, it’s a gift you deserve.

Well, thanks so much for listening today.  If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com.  Thanks so much for sharing, rating, reviewing, and subscribing to this podcast.  I really appreciate that.  Let’s close today in prayer together.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.

Jesus, You frequently stepped away from family, friends, and work in order to hear the voice and leading of your Father. Help us to follow your example.  If there’s a place and time of retreat that You are calling us to today specifically, help us to hear it and courageously walk in the direction of the door that You open for us.  We want to draw close to You and we want to hear You call us by our name.

Thank you, Lord. Amen.

Okay friends, thanks so much for listening, and I’ll see you next time.

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