Withdraw from the world to understand yourself better
Generally, a spiritual retreat takes place in a remote place, like the sanctuary Our Lady of La Salettein Isère. Perched at an altitude of 1800 meters, it presents an ideal setting for refocusing on oneself: “It is located far from the normal life of the village a little lower. It is in the heart of nature, it is the first thing that speaks to pilgrims when they arrive“, explains Father Antoni Skalba, rector of the sanctuary. A breathtaking view that never tires of Michelle, a regular listener to the place: “It had been three years since I had been able to go there. With the fog coming down and the snow, it was beautiful“. L’Abbey of Conques, in Aveyron, is a major stop on the way to Saint Jacques de Compostela. She has nothing to envy to Our Lady of La Salette: “When the pilgrims leave Puy-en-Velay and arrive in the setting of the village which has remained in its medieval juice, this puts a seal on their approach.“, says Brother Arnaud, the rector of the abbey.
More and more people feel the need to take stock of their lives by breaking away from their daily lives : “Since the lockdown, more and more people want to do spiritual retreats alone, but accompanied by a Sister. These people withdraw from their professional, social and family life to take stock, discern and start afresh on new bases.“, testifies Sister Annick Camene, director of theAbbey of Rhuys. Religious communities are there to accompany pilgrims on their journey, whether they choose to live their retreat alone or in a group, like the Sisters of Rhuys Abbey in Brittany. They offer animated retreats over seven days and thematic stays in parallel with liturgical highlights, such as Christmas or Easter.
If the visitors do not need to have faith to be welcomed in a sanctuary, the objective of the religious remains to give a Christian meaning to the retreat. “People come to discuss a philosophical spirituality. These pilgrims lack a beacon to live a life with deeper meaning. We obviously tell them that this missing beacon is the gospel“, reveals Sister Annick. There is no need to attend religious services, even if it is appreciated by the communities: “Being in communion with nature and taking stock of yourself is not enough. We are here to help pilgrims find the inner peace of Christ“, highlights Brother Arnaud.
Find meaning in your life
Living to the rhythm of the religious for a few days allows you to experience a different relationship to time. Jacques, an auditor, did week-long retreats when he was a student in theabbey of Cîteauxin Côte-d’Or: “I discovered a completely new dimension of time. Monks live much closer to their internal clock than we do in the secular world. I lived the fullness of these days that I saw passing on a human scale. When I got back in my car, I felt like I was going back to a world where everything was rushed“To live a spiritual retreat requires a form of acclimatization in the face of the permanent agitation of the modern world, rebounds Brother Arnaud: “For those used to living an active lifestyle, changing the pace is confusing. To find inner peace, it is not enough to put your luggage in a monastery, you have to take the time for things to slow down“.
Going on a spiritual retreat allows you to set off again for a more serene life, as evidenced by Estelle, a listener who retired to theHautecombe Abbey in 2005 : “I was trained there for two weeks by friends. I cried for three days. I felt stripped, like a new life was beginning“Living in a remote time of the world, and sometimes gathering in prayer, can be an opportunity to respond to existential crises:”confinement has put people face to face. Today they feel the need to know where they are going and why, to know what to do with the life given to them.“. It’s an opportunity to unload all your worries: “what we often hear is that visitors have recharged their batteries, that they have regained their courage. Even young people come to regain discernment before making an important decision.“, recalls Antoni Skalba. “Religious retreats are a peaceful way to reconcile with your life“, he concludes.