Were you aware that for a short time each year, the week following Ash Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI suspends all of his meetings so that he can participate in a retreat? Yes, the Pope steps away from daily activity, valuing silence and time for meditative prayer. His time of retreat is not just another vacation, but rather a time to bring his intentions and his vocation before the Lord. Considering that the Pope, as the Vicar of Christ, is the shepherd of the universal Church, it is a great blessing for all of us that he sets aside this time each year to sincerely ask for grace and guidance.
During my summer vacation, I will also be taking time for prayer and reflection in my own annual retreat: an eight-day, all-silent directed retreat with a group of my brother bishops. I am thankful for this opportunity to follow the example of the Holy Father; saints such as Ignatius Loyola, who spent many hours in prayerful retreat; and Christ Himself, Who spent forty days in the desert before beginning His public ministry.
Each year in this special way, I bring my intentions, especially those concerning our diocesan Church, before the Lord. Recognizing that the Christ is the source of our joy and of the truth, I look forward to this time of discernment and spiritual rejuvenation. In those days of silent prayer and reflection, I hear the Lord in a way that is unlike the rest of the year. I come away from my retreat with a renewed understanding of my vocation and often with a clearer sense of direction and purpose for the coming year.
The purpose of a retreat is not so much to solve our problems, but rather to submit our joys, our sorrows, our cares and concerns to Our Creator in order to discern His will for us at that time. Spending time with the Lord never fails to bring about spiritual fruit in our lives and the lives of those dear to us. At the conclusion of my retreat each year, I write a brief prayer which I pray every morning through the rest of the year, thus always keeping before myself what the Lord had brought to my attention during the retreat.
I encourage you to consider planning a time of retreat, whether for a week, a weekend, or even part of a day. While all of us are busy, time with the Lord is always very beneficial. I know that each of you has responsibilities, concerns and intentions to bring before the Lord. While it is true that our busy schedules will be waiting for us when we return, the grace that comes from time spent in prayer gives us the wisdom and fortitude to live our vocations daily more realistically and faithfully.
As I pray and reflect, I humbly ask for your prayers both for me and for our diocesan Church. Please know that I pray for all of you throughout the year, but especially during this grace-filled time of retreat.
Encourage and Teach Note: If you are planning a retreat, don’t forget the newly-opened, first-ever diocesan retreat center, San Damiano. Located in White Post, VA, San Damiano is located on over 100 acres of land has room for over 100 daytime guests or 50 overnight guests. Call 540-868-9220 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.