Every catechist has planned, attended or chaperoned a retreat or two, or even more. Personally, I’ve lost count. At least twice during the school year the DRE and I are making calls, collecting money, begging for chaperones, packing teens in a bus or giving directions to get to that remote place where teens can have a unique experience of God. Away from their routine, with iPods and phones off, a little praying and some meditating time, the teens always manage to easily open their hearts to the power of the Holy Spirit. They always tell the parish priest, retreat was the best experience of their Confirmation year. And I always tell them they should do this on their own, pack a few friends in a car and go on pilgrimage whenever the feel thirst for God.
But, as a catechist, I find little time to follow my own advice. Making a personal retreat in the midst of a busy schedule seems an impossible task. You all know what I’m talking about. And, before we know it, our fountain of devotion starts to trickle, what once was a heart full of zeal becomes dry land. We drag our feet to class, our minds run out of ideas. We need a drink of God. After an exhortation from my own sister, who after listening to my woes raised her eyebrows and whispered “You need to go on retreat!”
I made up my mind. I took 4 days off from work – a luxury reserved for beach vacations – packed a small suitcase and took a plane to Ohio to retreat in the cloister of the Sisters of the Visitation, for a silent retreat. No iPods, no phone, no t.v., no radio. There in the middle of that embrace between Mary and Elizabeth I found my spirit again, not as a catechist, not thinking ‘oh, I’m going to add this to one of my lessons’, but as a child of God, desiring to rest against His chest to listen to His living heart.
Sure, I took an afternoon to pray for all my written intentions, but the rest of the time was for me. I prayed for myself. I was selfish, just Jesus and me. None of this Martha stuff. I was Mary listening to his every word; Magdalene wiping His tired feet; John leaning his head on His shoulder; a leper extending my hand; Peter crying of sorrow for my sins; a grieved follower in a listening walk to Emmaus. The joy of the Holy Spirit resurrected, subtle and strong.
Maybe a silent retreat is not for everyone, but the point is this: Go on a spiritual retreat!! You and the Holy Trinity. Do it for yourself, leave the world behind and take a drink of God, drink his living water once more. You will not regret it. If you want to be an effective catechist, and have your faith confirmed in Christ, I’ve got 4 words for you: Spiritual Retreat. Do it!
2009 Maria Rivera