By Renae Bauer
If life is a journey and heaven is our destination, then how can we ensure we are on the right path?
The obvious answer for Catholics is to participate in Sunday Mass and the Sacraments. To supplement, there are hundreds of forms of prayer, wonderful books to read and all sorts of acts of charity. But have you ever thought about a retreat?
Those unfamiliar with a "spiritual vacation" might bristle at the thought. But a retreat -- whether it's one day or seven -- can help a person reconnect with God and grow spiritually.
"A retreat is sacred time for each Sister and for any person spiritually committed to growing in the Lord," says Sister Carrie Zahringer, who just completed a week-long retreat. "Some summers I've made directed retreats (meeting individually with a spiritual director to discuss prayer and faith). Other summers I've opted to make a preached retreat," where the leader presents a topic in group format.
Making a retreat doesn't require you to travel to some far-flung location. A retreat might be as near as your parish. "It would probably be good for someone who has never experienced a retreat to begin with a day of reflection. Many parishes offer these," says Sister Lynne Marie Simonich.
Whether at your parish or at a retreat center, most retreats are free of external distractions such as computers, phones and TVs. By unplugging, retreatants are better able to focus on God's presence, both in prayer and in the surroundings.
"One year, I saw the Northern Lights during the late-night hours, and lady slipper orchids during a day-time hike. There were many discoveries in nature during those retreats," says Sister Claudette Jeanquart.
The other "distraction" most retreats are free of is talking -- including at meal times. Known as silent retreats, this format encourages a retreatant to quiet oneself and be open to hearing God's word.
Says Sister Lynne Marie: "No matter which kind of retreat we choose, the important part is being open to the Spirit speaking in us and allowing ourselves to slow down and listen."