We all need it. Here’s how to make it actually happen.
A personal retreat is a necessity for anyone giving their heart in ministry. Let’s talk more about what that looks like, why it’s worth taking, and how to structure it.
What is a personal retreat?
A personal retreat is a dedicated full day (or more!) of time to be refreshed in intimacy with Jesus, and to take care of ourselves spiritually, mentally, and physically.
Why should I take a personal retreat?
We are spending ourselves in ministry daily, and as the saying goes “You can’t give what you don’t have.” We often must go back up the mountain (beyond just our daily prayer time) to be refreshed by Jesus. We need to be renewed in His love, and set aside intentional time to pray for our youth and our parish.
How often should it be?
Once a year minimum, but once every semester or quarter is even better!
Where should it be?
An ideal place could be a retreat center, perpetual adoration chapel, or a local church. If one of the latter, be sure to inform someone so you don’t overstay your welcome or overlap with a parish’s event. Avoid going to the parish where you are employed. It won’t be too long of a retreat if someone interrupts you two hours into it because they’re looking for someone to unlock the doors for volleyball practice!
How long should it be?
Six hour minimum. If possible, plan a whole day; find an overnight retreat center or plan for two days. You can also go back to your home to sleep at night if that works well. See below for a sample schedule.
What are the essential elements?
Two hours or more of prayer (spread throughout the day!).
Thirty minutes or more of physical exercise.
Silence and solitude.
What should I bring?
Definitely bring a Bible, a pen, a journal, a watch, and a few books for spiritual reading.
What shouldn’t I bring?
If it’s possible, leave your phone at home or turn it off during your dedicated times of prayer. If you do bring your phone, make a resolution not to check work email. All too often, this disturbs our peace! Try to keep out excess “noise” – try fasting from secular music for the day. Avoid the temptation to fill every bit of silence with noise.
What about meals?
Plan to eat out or pack your lunch. Give yourself bonus points for eating healthy food! I also take a page from the book from our monastic brothers and sisters and eat in silence. If that’s too much, read a book or listen to a podcast.
How should I balance the parts of my retreat used for ministry purposes versus for my own personal spiritual growth?
Here’s the beautiful thing – these two are always caught up in each other! Our own spiritual growth and maturity will naturally cause our apostolate to become more fruitful. This is up to you. Perhaps you need a day of intense visioning and strategic planning away from the bustle of parish life. Perhaps you want dedicated time to intercede for your parish and youth. Or perhaps, you just need a day “up on the mountain” with your Savior. Again, it’s up to you.
8:00 am Wake up (sleep in!)
8:30 am Mass
9:00 am Coffee & breakfast at a local coffee shop
10:00-11:00 am Morning holy hour (adoration chapel)
11:00am-12:00 pm Exercise/Rosary walk
12:00-1:00 pm Lunch in silence
1:00-2:00 pm Spiritual reading
3:00-4:00 pm Free time (Take a nap, be outdoors, exercise, write a letter to a friend/spouse/kids)
4:00-5:00 pm Afternoon holy hour
[If you’ve got the time, add in the evening!]
5:00-7:00 pm Get dinner with your spouse or a friend or two (this is not allowed to be a ministry meeting!)
End of Day: Examen (How was God at work today? Where did I respond to His initiative? Where did I fall short? What resolutions should I make for tomorrow?)
GET THIS AND A LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA TO HELP YOU WITH YOUR RETREAT!
I pray this has been helpful as you plan for your next personal retreat. You will each be in my prayers for a peaceful day and increasing fruits in each of your ministries!