For good reason, many Catholics make an annual Lenten retreat. In the midst of our hectic schedules, those forty days can quickly pass before we have made any significant changes in our lives. We need to slow down and replicate Jesus’ journey into in the desert. There’s not a lot to do in a desert, which might partly explain why Our Lord went there.
Regrettably, I didn’t make a retreat this year, and Lent sped by. It felt as if no sooner did Ash Wednesday arrive than I found myself preparing for S+L’s busy production schedule for Holy Week. Thankfully, my work over the holiday weekend allowed me to take a few days off.
So I decided to take an Easter retreat. I searched for an organized retreat, but few were being offered. I then came across the website for the Manresa Centre
, located just outside Toronto in Pickering, Ontario.
Manresa is a spiritual renewal centre run by the Jesuits. It’s named after a small Spanish town where, in the year 1522, St. Ignatius of Loyola crept into a small cave. Spending several months there, he experienced a breakthrough in his spiritual life.
While I likewise hoped for my own breakthrough, my efforts were more modest that those of the Jesuit founder. My privately led silent retreat would last just two days. There was nothing penitent about the expansive buffet spread at lunch. And contrary to St. Ignatius’ experience, my comfortable room was distinctly un-cave-like.
The retreat consisted of personal prayer, spiritual reading, and daily Mass held in the Jesuit infirmary on the property. When the spring rains let up, I took lengthy walks through the forest trails connected to the property. Twice daily, I met with a wise, older priest. He clearly relished his ministry of challenging visitors to deepen their commitment to Jesus. He didn’t hide his disappointment that my retreat was only for two days. “Are you that busy?”, he softly challenged me.
Indeed, two days is not enough time to contemplate the Resurrection. But for those of us who have difficulty getting away at all, it’s a step towards finally resetting our frenzied lives to the revitalizing rhythms of the Church.