Retreat Means Discovery, Not Escape

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Summer is a good time for retreats. They’re like vacations from worldly priorities, reminding us there’s only one true priority. Church retreats typically take place away from daily distractions that present as difficult, disagreeable or even dangerous. The only similarity to military retreats is that they’re directed away from an advancing enemy. The enemy in both cases is our perception of mortality. Retreats represent refuge, and can preserve our sensitivity to what’s immortal inside us: God’s reassuring voice.

The powerful in some parts of this world try drowning out that voice among us by separating the faithful from each other—chasing them away from unity in faith and toward fear—like bad shepherds might do for easier “handling.”

In Sunday’s first reading, God uses the prophet Jeremiah to attack bad shepherds, disable their hold on the faithful, and give another purpose to the retreat that scattered His flock.

You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds. I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow. (Jer 23:1-6)

This modern world doesn’t offer many meadows for a proper retreat from it, but wherever the Blessed Sacrament is housed, there’s a home to strengthen one’s soul. We were put in this world for some purpose, just as Christ’s original disciples were, but even they needed a respite from their mission, as their Master realizes in Sunday’s Gospel:

The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. (Mk 6:30-34)

By doing this, Jesus was sharing with them the regimen that helped him hear his Father’s voice. Several times in the gospels Jesus is shown separating himself from all distractions. He powered his three-year ministry this way—starting in a desert and ending in a garden, and on several mountains in between.

All humans have the opportunity, need, and obligation to retreat from this world periodically—to sensitize their soul to the Divine. That retreat from the world builds courage and one other gift that was emblazoned on the t-shirts of attendees of the most recent annual Faith & Light retreat held at the Loyola Retreat House near Akron, Ohio. Attendees are people with all kinds of special needs—especially the need for the love of God they find in each other. The gift, emblazoned underneath as well as atop their T-shirts?


Gratitude for what? Paul summed it up for the Ephesians who were in various states of retreat:

[Christ] came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. (Eph 2:13-18)

Give thanks for that accessibility via that quiet place in your heart where God lives forever.

–Tom Andel


  1. For me, the greatest form of retreat is time spent with Jesus in our Eucharistic Adoration chapel at Saint Michael. He is available 24/7 for us.

    Where better to unplug from the overwhelming noise of the world than in the presence of the creator of the universe? Talk to Him about what is happening in your life–the good, bad and ugly. Of course, he has the answers before we ask the questions, but do we ever take the time to search for them with the ultimate Advisor?

    Take the time! Amazing what we can learn from Him.

    • Your advice is particularly timely after this weekend’s events, Thomas. This world can be evil’s chapel–making us think we have nowhere else to go. We then start seeing evil everywhere–even where it doesn’t abide. Prayer in God’s presence helps us see the good in ourselves so we can then work our way outward and see it in others. As Bishop Roger Gries likes to remind us, “God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good.”

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