One of my favorite experiences along my journey with Christ so far has been attending a men’s retreat. The funny part of it all is that “retreats” are also a pet peeve of mine when it comes to our Catholic Faith. Let me explain why.
My first men’s retreat was Into the Wild, a retreat put on by The King’s Men (TKM); a Catholic men’s lay apostolate created in PA. I absolutely loved it! It was rough, manly, and rugged. It was Christ centered and it revolved around male spirituality and the lack of it in the Church today. When the time came that Into the Wild would be holding a retreat near my neck of the woods, I invited a few men from our local TKM group to attend. I showed them the video explaining what Into the Wild was and they said yes.
When it was all said and done, a couple of the men who had been to other retreats before didn’t care for Into the Wild and a few who had never been to a retreat loved it. When I asked the men who didn’t enjoy why they didn’t enjoy, they told me why and I said, “Cool. I understand” and I thanked them for joining me during that weekend.
I’ve been approached to attend other retreats and when I respectfully decline, I am looked upon as though I am lacking in spirituality and in some cases, I have even been told that, just because I declined to attend. I can appreciate the zeal that these individuals have for the retreat that they are trying to promote but to demean a person because they don’t want to attend is not Christian at all.
Retreats are a great tool that we can use in our walk with Christ but they are by no means the “be all end all” of a Catholics spiritual life. They are a tool and should be used just as that, kind of like a walking stick.
A walking stick can help lift you up when you fall, it can help you to keep your balance, it can help you climb those hard paths, and it can be used to rest on when you need a break.
When it comes to retreats, one size does not fit all and if you are involved in planning or running retreats, here are a few things to remember:
- Retreats aren’t for everyone. Just because a person doesn’t want to attend a retreat does not mean they are lacking in their spirituality.
- Don’t Be A PUSHER! It is great to be excited about your retreat but don’t push it on people. Invite them and be ready to answer questions they may have about the retreat.
- Don’t be secretive. There are a few retreats who would rather not tell you what goes on at their retreat and will use terms like “you have to live it” or “I can’t tell you about it.” You can sell a product easier when you are able to list all the highlights about it. The more questions you answer the better the chance that someone will take interest in attending.
- Be helpful and attentive to the needs of the individual during the retreat. Be observant of what is going on with each individual and if they need time away for reflection or a break from activities, don’t force them to adhere to the schedule. They are on a spiritual retreat that works on Gods time, not yours.
So the next time you are asked to go on a retreat or you are the person doing the asking, I pray that it is a positive experience.