In Full Retreat

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly


In Full Retreat



            The people in my parish are crazy about retreats.

            We have men's retreat and women's retreat.  We have confirmation retreats and Cursillo retreats.  We have private retreats and retreats for Catechumens and Candidates.  We have marriage encounters and engaged encounters. We have retreats for marriages in trouble and retreats for separated and divorced.   We have pilgrimage retreats that take us far away, and Renew mission retreats that we do right here in the parish center.

If it gets us out of the house for a few days, or even a few hours, we're go'in.

            I think all of this is a very healthy.

            For those people who have really caught the vision of what Christ and His church are offering and asking, a retreat is the logical next step on the journey in faith.

            Going to weekly liturgy, doing your own private prayers, participating in religious education is the bedrock of the spiritual life.  But there is a desire for deeper and more intense experiences.  And a longer time to pause, to pray, to think, and to discuss.

The wonderful thing about these retreats, from the standpoint of parish life, is the bonding that takes place.  People come back better friends.  They come back knowing each other on a deeper level.  They come back with a common experience.

This year, for instance, I made a Men's Cursillo retreat with seven men from our parish.  This intensive three-day experience gave a chance to learn about each other.  We shared meals and prayers.  They even got to see their pastor dressed up as a "fallen angel" in the Saturday night skit.  We come back with some common experiences and memories.

It is common memory that makes for community.

I think this means the most to our young people.

This year, for instance, we took 72 youth and their chaperones on the Confirmation retreat.  Only half of the 72 were actually making their confirmation.  The others participated in our program as "advocates".  These are teens who have made their confirmation, but want to participate in the confirmation classes as mentors and helpers.  For both the confirmandi and the "advocates", the high point of the year is the retreat.  So great is the attraction of the retreat, that the advocates are willing to come for two hours every Wednesday night for 30 weeks as the precondition for participating in the retreat.

For teens there is, of course, the attraction of getting away from their house and their parents for a weekend.  They like going up into the mountains and hanging out with friends.  It gives them a way to build a Catholic identity that they can't get in the public schools that nearly all of our young people attend.

The retreat movement is a truly Catholic part of the spiritual life.  It is a chance to experience the joys of the contemplative life.  A little bit of monasticism for the average person.

            Even the Lord himself felt the need of a retreat from time to time.  In Mark's gospel he invited his disciples to "come away to a quiet place" when they were so overwhelmed by the people coming and going that they did not even have time to pray.

            We probably need more and other types of retreats.  We need retreats for people who are terminally ill.  We need "empty-nester" retreats.  We need vocation retreats.  We need retreats for those who are grieving, for those who are recovering from addictions and for those who are in prison. 

            All of these are already offered somewhere around us.  Part of the job of the parish is to be a conduit that brings people to these opportunities for spiritual growth. 

            It seems there is an unlimited desire for deeper religious experience.  People come a' running when the bugle sounds retreat.