We took a retreat this weekend. The whole family. All four of us.
I like the idea of taking a retreat annually, but have fallen out of the habit. In 2007, I took my last silent retreat at the Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House north of Dallas, TX. I attended a Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP or “chirp”) Retreat in 2010. This year, presented by the ACE Advocates of Austin and Dallas, the retreat focused on the topic of servant leadership.
The need to retreat is essential, whether or not you are religious. A retreat is a great time to step away from the typical grind and reset or recenter yourself. Like a vacation with purpose, the retreat allows you to slow down, enjoy life and remember what direction you want to follow.
In religious life, retreats are required. Canon law requires the bishop to ensure candidates for ordination have taken a recent retreat, bounds the religious to take an annual retreat, and dictates that the parish priest’s retreat is not to be taken from their “vacation time”.
In the business world, the presence of retreats is growing. More and more organizations—non-profit and for-profit alike—are taking their staffs or a subset on retreat to rediscover their mission, their goals and objectives and to formulate strategies to realize that mission and achieve those objectives when they return to the office. Businesses are realizing that they can be more successful when they step back for a moment to take in the bigger picture.
Individually, we tend to ignore this. I let three years pass without a retreat and I only went on the CRHP retreat because a member of the Knights that I needed to meet with regarding his insurance said he wouldn’t less I went. (While I don’t encourage this tactic, I knew I needed to go on a retreat, so it worked.)
We’ll go on a retreat when it is required or suggested by a community we are closely associated—work, civic and church organizations and so on. But we tend to ignore our own personal need to seek out the type of retreat that would enrich us at that time and take it.
The Jesuit-style retreat is my personal favorite. Primarily alone. Silent. Large blocks of time to simply reflect. Private. The content fixed. Each retreat is virtually the same as the previous one, although where you go with it differs. The retreat director guides you, but the journey is up to you. The Awakening-style doesn’t do much for me (but does for a lot of people). High-energy, music, small-group orientated with sharing. CRHP was similar to this. That being said, the experience was still enriching and recentered me on being a strong husband and father.
With so many options for retreats, the selection to choose from can stop us cold. There’s an all-men’s retreat by this organization, there’s a couple’s retreat here, the Jesuit center has a retreat every other week available, someone is always telling me that I simply must go on CRHP. It’s easier to do nothing than sort through everything just to figure out where to reserve a spot.
Even when some retreat styles are better for you than others, the important part is going on a retreat. I could have waited another four years before planning another retreat at Montserrat until I felt okay leaving the family for a Thursday-Sunday retreat, or could have found a million reasons to not attend that CRHP retreat, or have put up a thousand roadblocks to taking the entire family last weekend, the important step is actually going.
Something is better than nothing. In experiencing something new, you may discover something that enriches you in ways you never expected or experienced from that style before.
Back to this weekend: As a family, though, wow. The idea of the husband and wife going on a retreat and leaving the kids with Grandma made sense to me, but the whole family? Never occurred as feasible and I told Vanessa as much when she brought up the idea.
It worked. The retreat was at a beautiful camp outside of Marble Falls, TX. The organizing team split the working sessions amongst themselves to run child care in the retreat site’s rec room taking in all ages from our one-year-old to guys who appeared to be around 12. The adults were able to experience the retreat, the kids were able to play (for our girls, more than we do at home) and we were all able to enjoy time with each other outside of the typical weekend routine.
While not a very contemplative time, the retreat gave us pause, recharged the batteries and allowed us to look above the clouds in order to be reminded of why we’re doing what we’re doing in life. Being married with kids makes it more of a challenge to find and attend a retreat, either alone or with the whole group, but is even more a necessity.