I ask for your prayers this week as I “do” my annual retreat. Each priest is required to make a retreat
once a year. There are a number of different styles to these retreats and many different options for locations.
One of my favorite locations is the Eastern Point Retreat House which is a converted mansion perched on the
rocky Massachusetts coast, with the crashing waves of the North Atlantic serving as a metaphor for the inner
adventure that a retreat can be. This year, I am heading to Florida, which is a bit warmer than the North Atlantic
Coast. Many retreats are preached, but I prefer silent retreats where I can spend some extended alone time
People will often ask, what do you do all day on a retreat? Most often, I use the exercises of St. Ignatius.
Even though Ignatius calls his directions “exercises,” it is not like sitting down with a workbook. A retreat is a
time of prayer, obviously, but the shape of the prayer is up to the individual. Some people take long walks
having conversations with God, while others sit in silence before the Blessed Sacrament or a favorite icon.
Others recite the psalms or meditate on scriptures suggested by their spiritual directors. Ignatius encourages the
use of the imagination and memory to encounter Jesus in the silence. But, the silence is universal—indeed it is
expected in retreat houses and on the grounds—as is a commitment to several extended periods of prayer each
What goes on inside the person is unique to them. Knowing how personal my own prayer has been, I
know that God reaches out to everyone in a way particularly suited to him or her. The saints tell us that some
themes stand out: God’s unconditional delight in each of us; God’s healing touch and quickness to forgive;
unlooked-for insights; a deep sense of peacefulness; a sense of certainty when a decision becomes clear.
Now, there may also be challenging times on retreat. With so much time alone, there may be a
temptation to focus on personal failures, to be caught up in guilt or self-pity. The spiritual director helps
distinguish the presence of God from these temptations. Peace, trust, hope, and humor are signs of God;
feelings of unworthiness or shame are not usually from God. Discerning the difference between the two can be
a challenge. Many people will find a need for forgiveness at some point during the retreat.
The insights that happen on a retreat are worth the effort. We place ourselves where God can speak and
we can listen and amazing things happen. Many people think that this kind of stuff is only for priests or women
religious, but I think this belongs to all Christians. The opportunity for all of you to make a silent, Ignatian retreat
in a beautiful setting is right around the corner. Thanks to the generosity of Joe Ricketts, a beautiful retreat
center is being built in the woods along the Platte River just south of Omaha. The retreat center is called The
Cloisters on the Platte and will open in July of 2018. I took a tour a couple of weeks ago and it is absolutely
amazing. Mr. Ricketts is giving the people of the Archdiocese of Omaha the first dibs to experience the retreat
center before it will be opened to people from all over the country. And, once you have a made a retreat there,
then you will be able to sign up for future retreats and be in the front of the line. I have heard there is a waiting
list of 7,000 people who would like to make a retreat there.
The retreats at the Cloisters will be silent and a have a retreat master who will guide the group through
the Ignatian Exercises. Each retreat is limited to 80 people. The retreats will run from Thursday through Sunday.
Everyone on the retreat will have his or her own small “home” to stay in during the days there. Each parish in
the Archdiocese has been given two weekends – one for men and one for women – to have first choice to
attend. The weekends for St. Frances Cabrini are scheduled for May 16-19, 2019 for the men and June 6-9, 2019
for the women. To learn more go to: cloistersontheplatte.com. We will keep you informed on when you will be
able to go in and sign up for our weekends. Then you can join me in the silence of a retreat!