April 12, 2011 by Knight Errant
Firstly, let’s talk about the headline word itself. Retreat is a known military maneuver, meaning falling back (pulling back) your forces to avoid heavy losses and regrouping at a safer location. The same word names a lone, quiet place, a sanctuary, where we can find peace and rest. A connection of the two meanings will give us a form of escapism, seeking shelter not only materially, but also spiritually. Therefore, the word “retreat” is used by the Catholic Church. It means a period of time during Lent, dedicated to religious sermons, critical self-assessment, and preparing ourselves for Easter.
Secondly, let’s focus on the main subject. As we all know, all of the Junior High School and High School classes had the occasion to go out during the retreat. The stayed in a special retreat house, and have been provided accommodation (no luxuries of course, it wasn’t a vacation), food and the two most important things to a Salesian student – a chapel and a football pitch. This time of intense prayer, thinking and self-calming made 24 hours (from the midday on one day to 4pm on the other) feel like a few days. The classes also saw a film about John Paul II, which let them get to know the Great Pope a little better.
The teachings were led by Fr. Marcin Pyda. They consisted of two conferences and two Holy Masses. Their main subjects varied depending on which group they concerned. It didn’t matter, because the main idea of a retreat is to find a private, individual lesson, pointed directly at us. The retreat is the time to find faults in our lives and think of a way get rid of them. General thinking will lead us nowhere. It is crucial to treat everything we hear personally and try to relate it to our life an actions. Only then we can actually move forward, find a path we can use to better ourselves. To summarize the first day, our Priest gave everyone an occasion for confession and a rather uncommon event – kneeling down before the holy cross in prayer for a minute. It was a chance to seek help in the upcoming work (to defeat our defects) and to confide our problems and sorrows to the crucified Jesus. For those, who considered it seriously, it was a deep, spiritual experience. The second mass helped everyone put their thoughts in order and set a plan for future. Meeting God in Eucharist was a perfect finish of this time, and a perfect beginning of another one.
Was it a time well spent? Was this all worth the time? Everyone has to answer these questions for themselves. Although there were times, when the chapel reminded more of a market stall then the house of God, I think that most people considered it important and used the time the best they could. It’s probably a good thing our school takes care of our spiritual growth, because maybe not all of us would find the time to participate in a retreat in their parishes. The program was perfectly adjusted to our age, needs and thirst for peace. It couldn’t have been organized better.
Was it necessary to go so far away? Of course it wasn’t necessary, but it doesn’t mean it was wrong. The most important thing to a Christian is (or at least should be) meeting God – in prayer, adoration, art, singing and in the people around us. During the retreat we have to go one step forward: to see God’s presence in our hearts. Not many people are capable of concentrating hard enough to do that in their homes, on the crowded streets, in front of a computer… Te countryside is an incredible area, beautiful in many ways. Perfect weather made it possible to admire the beauty of incredible numbers of star in the night sky. The only thing interrupting the extraordinary quiet were some barking dogs… Only you, the falling stars and God sitting next to you.