Last weekend, Fr. Park preached on the importance of rest. The Lord calls His followers to come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile (Mark 6:31). We do well to rest with the Lord by keeping holy the Sabbath—attending Mass and resting from activities that do not renew us in body and spirit—and by regularly withdrawing from the world to spend time with Jesus on retreat.
First, I want to second Father’s retreat recommendation. I’ve been blessed to make a personal retreat almost every year since I left the University of Minnesota and came to work for the Church. The first was a hermitage retreat at Pacem in Terris in Isanti, during which I spent a few days and nights in a comfortable one-room cabin in the woods; a basket of simple foods and water were left on my doorstep each morning, and I was encouraged to read scripture, reflect and pray in silence, on my own. A couple years ago I did something similar at Holy Hill in Wisconsin, renting a room in the old monastery and enjoying a self-imposed silence and reflection at an otherwise bustling shrine.
The rest have been three-day silent retreats at Demontreville in Lake Elmo, with a Jesuit retreat master leading us through the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, simple rooms, great food and quiet consistency from one year to the next. All have been fruitful, and when I re-enter the silence of retreat, I find God waiting for me, right where we left off.
The weekend before last we went to Mass at St. Timothy’s in Maple Lake. The gospel was Jesus sending the disciples out two by two with no money, no food, nothing for contingencies. The priest focused his homily on our tendency—especially as we get older—to overpack, overplan and try to control everything. We are an anxious people, but anxiety is not of God, who calls us to trust in His providence.
Reflecting on these two homilies, I find in myself a heart committed to spending quiet time with the Lord, but a mind racing to fill the time with scripture and spiritual reading, rosaries and chaplets, writing, exercise and more. I see the time afforded to me on retreat as my time, not His, and I want to take full advantage before I have to return to the “real world.”
We do the same thing with vacations, don’t we? Who hasn’t taken a week or two with the family to enjoy some R+R, then filled it so full of sight-seeing, destinations, activities, great food, games and more, that we return home, late and exhausted, and return to work for a vacation from our vacation?
And it’s not just retreats that we can be tempted to fill to bursting. When I first committed to Adoration each week, I treated it as an hour of quiet time away from the kids to get as far as I could in the latest Catholic book I was reading. I fell away in short order, saying I wasn’t getting anything out of it…but in truth, I wasn’t willing to spend time in silence, just me and the Lord, to receive what He wanted to give me.
This tendency can affect the Mass, too. How many times have I come to Mass with intentions or anxieties to bring to Jesus—then proceeded not to even approach Him, but to spend an hour worshipping at the foot of my own little cross and left more worried and less nourished than ever?
It is not insignificant that the word recreation is spelled re-creation. Our souls do not crave information, experiences, pleasure or distraction. They crave communion, healing and peace. We are called to renewal, redemption, and, ultimately, resurrection—and the only One who can provide these things is waiting for us in simplicity and silence.
This post appeared in the Sunday, July 25, issue of the St. Michael Catholic Church bulletin.