Welcome to Mater Ecclesiae College, where life is busy almost everyday of the year. For 29 days of the month, students deal with the activities of an ordinary, busy life: attending classes every morning, doing the cleaning of the house (did I mention that it’s a 4-story building?), studying hard in the afternoons, teaching religious education classes, going out to the doctor or for a last minute trip to the airport. Good luck finding a free car on a Monday afternoon, in case you forgot to arrange your transportation!
In a few words, life is always busy and there’s no time to get bored here. But there is one day of the month when all of that commotion stops for a while and the whole world seems to “pause” for a little bit. This is the day of our monthly retreat.
On that day, our house transforms from ‘Mater Ecclesiae College’ to a quiet and peaceful paradise with Our Lord. No more noise, phone calls, Outlook, studies… It’s a time to be alone with God. I like to see it as a little oasis in the middle of the desert, where our souls get a little refreshment in order to keep on going.
We start our day with morning prayers, Mass, a good breakfast and lots of coffee. Ordinary morning housework is not forgotten, since after all, we still have to keep our house going. Nevertheless, absolute silence is lived throughout the day, to listen better to the voice of God in our hearts. We also have preached meditations and talks, which are always full of new insights on the spiritual life or our consecrated life. The topics (and often the preachers) vary each month; from the spiritual battle, to our promises of poverty chastity and obedience, to the theological virtues or all kinds of other virtues of Christian life. It’s a time to go deeper in our prayer, our relationship with Christ and the daily living of our consecration.
My favorite part of our monthly retreats is that we have a whole lot of free time to do whatever we want. Well, not exactly what we want (such as taking a nap in the middle of the day) but what Our Lord wants to do with us. The key is to do everything with him! If you want to go for a long walk in the woods, journal in the back field, pray a Rosary or two, or even just go for a quick snack in the dinning room, you can always just do it with him; and that makes the whole difference! Of course we can always do this on an ordinary day, for we shouldn’t wait until the retreat to spend time with Our Lord, but it does make a difference when you set a day apart to just spend it with the one you love the most; just you and him.
It’s true that sometimes being alone with God can scare us a little bit and we might not know what to do with ourselves for a whole day in silence. The good thing is that we don’t always have to say or do something. The retreats that have helped me the most are the ones where I just sat in front of Jesus in the Eucharist –without even knowing what to say–, looked at him, and trusted that he was transforming my heart. I learned that it’s not about ‘what we do’ to progress in our spiritual lives, but what God does in our souls; especially through the patient endurance of silence.
So every month we have something to look forward to whenever we get caught up in the midst of our busy lives, or when our list of “to-dos” doesn’t seem to end. We always now that that ‘little oasis’ is coming, and that it will quench our thirst, at least for 29 more days.