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DEAR FATHER | Retreats help people step back from the busyness of life and focus on relationship with God

I’ve never been on a retreat, but I’ve seen opportunities offered. What are they all about?

Fr. Kavanagh
As a young adult, I remember wondering the same thing when I saw a retreat promoted by our campus ministry. I saw the poster but didn’t really know all that it entailed or if I was “Catholic enough” to go. Unfortunately, I shied away from going and missed out on what I’m sure would have been a great experience.

Maybe you have seen blurbs in your parish bulletin promoting an upcoming retreat, such as ACTS, Christ Renews His Parish, Cursillo, Luke 18, Awakenings, Welcoming, etc. Don’t worry if you’re thinking to yourself “I don’t know what any of those mean!” These are just a few of a vast array of retreats that are geared to certain groups of people within the Catholic Church.

For example, Luke 18 retreats are geared toward young people preparing for the sacrament of confirmation, while an ACTS or Cursillo retreat is great for any adult wanting to grow deeper in their faith. Although the schedule and topics may vary from one retreat to another, the fruit of the time spent together always is tied to growing deeper in our relationship with God.

Even all of what I mentioned above is only one example of a Catholic retreat. All of the aforementioned involve a group of people going on a retreat together; they’re very group oriented but also with some time for personal prayer.

Traditionally though, a Catholic retreat gives a person the opportunity to retreat from the busyness of life and take time to focus on their relationship with God. Two examples would be a private guided retreat or a personal retreatant-led retreat. A guided retreat involves meeting with a spiritual director, usually a few times, over the course of the retreat. The retreat could be for a weekend, a week, an eight-day retreat or even 30 days in length. Generally during this time, the spiritual director will help guide your prayer in discerning how God is speaking through your experiences and how you should respond in living the faith.

The best atmosphere for a retreat is somewhere that provides separation from your usual daily routine and responsibilities. As you may know, our Catholic Church has many different religious orders that focus on offering places and opportunities for retreats for clergy, religious and laity. We have numerous retreat centers sponsored and operated by men’s and women’s religious orders dotted throughout our archdiocese. You can find Catholic retreat centers in pretty much every state across the U.S. and in many types of locations and settings.

There is so much more that could be said about the importance and benefits of going on retreat that I can’t fit here, but I encourage you to look into it yourself, or ask a priest, deacon, religious or anyone who has been on a retreat for more information.

Personally, I feel blessed when I look back at all the different retreats I’ve experienced, especially the first one, which took a lot of courage to finally say yes and go on it. If you’ve been on the fence about attending a retreat, whether at your parish or Catholic retreat center, I wholeheartedly encourage you to take the leap of faith and give it a try!

Father Dan Kavanagh is director of the Catholic Deaf Ministry in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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