Throughout Lent, we often focus on the things we are giving up or the extra things we are doing. Maybe we are fasting from chocolate, praying a weekly holy hour, or volunteering more at the soup kitchen.
Often our Lent becomes filled with things to do instead of drawing us closer to God. To have a truly fruitful Lent, we must intentionally set aside time for God. One way to do this is by going on a retreat or day of recollection.
A few years ago during Lent, my wife (girlfriend at the time) suggested that I go on a silent retreat run by the priests of Miles Christi based upon the main points of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. It was the best thing I did that Lent.
The retreat gave me a chance to hear God’s voice in a deeper way. Amidst the business of life, we often have very little room for silence, which is where God speaks to us. Even when we turn off our devices, our minds are still going a hundred miles an hour and we do not enter the interior silence necessary to hear God. The hours in silence and prayer during the retreat gave me a chance not only to quiet my mouth but my mind as well. As I entered the interior silence, I was able to step away from the world and reflect upon my life.
Entering the retreat I had been contemplating engagement, but fear was holding me back. During spiritual direction, the priest pierced my heart with clear counsel that God was calling me forward into marriage. On account of the retreat, I resolved to get engaged and discern marriage. My wife has been thanking the priest for this counsel ever since.
Of course, the retreat was beneficial in other ways to me besides discerning my vocation. I was exposed to different forms of prayer and learned some good tips on how to deepen my walk with Christ through prayer. During the meals, we listened to The Soul of the Apostolate, a must read for devout Catholics who want to grow in holiness in this age of activism.
One friend summed up the retreat like this: this retreat will give you the tools to become a saint in your everyday life. The priests pulled no punches, calling us forth to answer Jesus’s call to follow Him and live life as a committed disciple through prayer, good works, and an apostolate.
Since our devotion to Christ can wane throughout the months after retreat, the priest recommended each retreatant to resolve to make an annual silent retreat to reclaim fervor and grow deeper in holiness. For these past few years, I have attended a silent retreat during every Lent.
Each time I am challenged to grow in my faith and hopefully I leave a holier person. Every year it is hard to enter the silence, but once I embrace it, God begins to work powerfully in my life.
I wholeheartedly encourage anyone who is serious about growing in holiness to attend a retreat on the Spiritual Exercises offered by Miles Christi. They travel throughout the United States preaching the Spiritual Exercises, so hopefully they are coming to a town near you.
However, if Ignatian spirituality is not your style, there are many other silent retreats out there. Most retreat centers or monasteries offer silent retreats, whether directed or personal.
If you are looking to stretch your spiritual muscles a bit further this Lent, attend a silent retreat. Experience the beauty and wonder of God in silence. You will grow in faith like you never had before.