When you hear the word “retreat,” you might think of armies and losing battles. But for me, retreats will always mean spending a bonding weekend with friends. Not a vacation but not really work, retreats generally take students (or coworkers or other like-minded individuals) to a place removed from their harried everyday lives, giving them an opportunity to learn, reflect, and grow together.
I went on my first retreat as a high school sophomore with a school group concerned with healthful living (read: straight-edge kids, unite!). It was not a faith-related retreat—though every year, our trip happened to overlap with a Christian singles weekend, which we found interesting—but we had long conversations about important issues, ate lots of yummy food, and laughed hysterically at the stupid stuff that’s only funny at 2:00 a.m. We all left with stronger bonds and great memories. That’s the kind of stuff you’ll find at the retreats offered by Catholic colleges and universities, just with a healthy dose of spirituality.
Many Catholic schools organize weekend or week-long retreats for interested students, offering not just a meaningful bonding experience, but a time to reflect on their relationship with God and the role of spirituality in their lives. It’s like taking a page right out of the scriptures, actually; sometimes you need to get away from it all to really focus on your faith. (Don’t worry. None of these retreats take place alone in the desert . . . at least not to my knowledge.)
What to expect
What happens during one of these retreats?
Thoughtful, trained leaders conducting group discussions. Small-group discussions, often involving lots of individual sharing. Family-style meals and camp-like sleepovers. Late nights full of talking and laughing. Answering questions about God, life, society, and other potentially heavy subjects. Prayer and times of quiet reflection. Journaling or writing exercises.
A number of Catholic colleges and universities across the country offer their own retreats, but those examples deserve more space than one blog post allows, hence, the second installment of this two-part post! In the meantime, if you’ve participated in a Catholic retreat (or a secular school retreat), let us know in the comments!