So what is this retreat thing all about? Why are we at Trinity always talking about retreats, quiet days and spiritual direction? Here is one answer that another Episcopal priest writes for the Boston Globe about why he is going on retreat:
This coming week, I’ll be stepping away from life in Needham for a short while. I’ll be spending several days on retreat with the Benedictine monks of Mt. Saviour Monasteryin Elmira, NY. While I hope the time away will be relaxing, a retreat isn’t the same thing as a vacation—my time at the monastery will be filled with prayer and study, two of the things I do here at Christ Church, just done more intensely while I’m away. It will be like a training weekend where the focus is on a few aspects of what I do as a priest and pastor. But the important part of going away on retreat is that I’ll be doing these things in a place that’s away from my usual surroundings. Going on retreat will give me some space and distance from my home and my work, which will let me examine myself and life in Needham from a different perspective.
As Skip Windsor, the senior priest at Christ Church, reminded me last week, a retreat isn’t just about getting away: it’s about preparing to come back. The purpose of going on retreat is to come back with fresh eyes and ears; to come back with a new spirit or some new discovery about the circles we usually move in. Taking a retreat means removing yourself from what is routine and familiar and spending time living in a different way, so that when you return to “ordinary” life, you’ll be more attentive to those details you usually take for granted. Maybe you see something that can be improved; maybe you return with a greater appreciation for what you missed while you were on retreat.
I think everyone can benefit from finding ways to take a retreat from time to time, whether that time is for a week, or a weekend, or just a day. It’s so easy to become entrenched in our habitual ways of working and interacting with neighbors or family; even the ways we take time for rest and relaxation can become stale and routine! Retreat time offers an opportunity to break out of the usual molds that govern our days, and also allows time to focus on just a few important things that are otherwise scattered among all the other “urgent” activities that occupy our time. The focus and renewal that a retreat offers helps keep the tasks of ordinary life fresh and interesting.