Spiritual Retreats

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I discovered spiritual retreats last year. I’d been on church youth retreats and on all-inclusive vacations but these were more a hybrid of the two, an adult vacay for a weary heart. The three I attended were much-needed respites for my soul.

In the midst of a divorce and spiraling mentally, a friend from high school suggested I look into a retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky. I didn’t read much more than the word free before sending a request. Within four days, I was unpacking in a private room before dinner and orientation about the retreat. It was then that I learned exactly where I was.

Spiritual RetreatsThe Abbey of Gethsemani is a school of the Lord’s service where Trappist monks lead lives of prayer and sacred reading, steeped in the heart and mystery of the Church. They maintain Gethsemani Farms and there is a gift shop on the premises that’s open to daily visitors. The Abbey has received guests since its foundation in 1848. They welcome men and women of all faiths from around the world. As outlined in Saint Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, the guest represents Christ and has a claim on the welcome and care of the community.

The monastic milieu offers a place apart “to entertain silence in the heart and listen for the voice of God–to pray for your own discovery” (Thomas Merton). Gethsemani retreats are silent, unstructured, and undirected. My life completely changed while at the Abbey; I look forward to my upcoming stay this summer with a much clearer head.

A few months after my first spiritual retreat, I went to a week-end women’s group retreat at Tall Timbers through my childhood church. Although I’d been a pastor’s wife elsewhere for over 23 years, church hurt had left me certain I’d never warm a pew again. I was attending the retreat mostly to get away from a new life not quite going according to plan. Once again, the Lord knew what I needed.

Through activities such as writing your deepest burdens on rocks to physically lay them down and fellowshipping with other like-minded women, the retreat provided much needed healing for my heart. I attended church for the first time that Sunday and have not missed a service since. (An interesting side note of that retreat was sharing the experience with my neighbor and discovering that our combined properties were actually the original proposal site for Tall Timbers!)

Spiritual RetreatsMy third spiritual retreat of the year was also recommended by a former classmate. The drive was short as Our Lady of the Oaks Jesuit Retreat House, founded in 1938, is in Grand Coteau, just north of Lafayette. The three-day silent retreat was a blend of the completely individually-directed stay at the Abbey and the activities-packed weekend at Tall Timbers. With recommended conferences throughout the day and gorgeous grounds to relax and renew, the Oaks provided a nurturing environment in which we were also lovingly served three delicious meals a day.

I put the finishing edits on my book and learned to trust the Lord to keep me safe in my sleep, two areas I’d been struggling with. I found myself excitedly attending the conferences I’d planned to politely excuse myself from before my arrival. I half-joked that the schedule said depart at will after lunch on Wednesday so my will was to stay another week! I wasn’t alone; I met several women who’d been coming for over 30 years! I will return often.

Our Lady of the Oaks hosts several retreats throughout the year for men, women, and married couples. Retreat offerings vary; scholarships are available. All in need of spiritual recharging are welcome, regardless of ability to pay because of the generosity of others. They are offering an all-expense paid Memorial Day weekend retreat for male and female veterans May 23th through 26th.

To register for this retreat or one of the many others, visit ourladyoftheoaks.com or email [email protected].

The next time you find yourself in need of more than just a vacation, check out a spiritual retreat. It may be just the thing your soul needs!