How to make the most of a spiritual retreat?

What is the point of going on a spiritual retreat?

It is always good to get out of your usual occupations to devote time to prayer, to reflection on yourself and your life. In the Scriptures, God often reminds us, as in the Book of Deuteronomy: stop and look, two paths open to you, the one that leads to death and unhappiness and the one that leads to life and happiness, which one are you committing to?

Christ also said this to his disciples after having sent them on mission (Mark 6): you have lived a time of apostolate, now rest a little, stand aside with me, and we will reread things together to see if you are exhausted, if you have taken bad roads, if there are points to rectify…

The exercise is therefore not reserved for a Christian “elite”!

In effect. As soon as one wishes to advance in one’s Christian life, spiritual retreat is a necessity. I have also observed, for several years, a real enthusiasm for this approach. The trend is very clear in our Carmelite convents, like that of Broussey, near Bordeaux. In Toulouse, where I live, many working people, engineers who work at Airbus for example, take a few days to take stock of their life under the gaze of God.

Parents too, each in turn, or retirees. The retreatants sometimes arrive dragging their feet, but all admit in the end that this “lost” time was not. It did them good to stop, to change rhythm, to taste the silence, to pray, to meditate on the Word… The benefits are there. But no doubt you have to experience it at least once in your life to believe it. I therefore encourage everyone, believing committed, neophyte or in search, to get started!

Was it to support this trend that you launched the “Spiritual Retreat” collection in 2018?

It happens that people make the decision to make a retreat in solitude but that, once they arrive at the abbey, at the spiritual center or simply by staying at home, they do not know how to organize their day. They are deprived for lack of preacher, tool, support and sometimes also experience. This is the whole point of the works in our collection: to offer support, according to a theme or in connection with a figure of holiness, to anyone who wants to live a solitary retreat.

The course, which lasts between five and seven days, is designed as a real retreat, with an introduction, two daily interviews and paths for meditation, prayer suggestions. At the end of each day, the retreatant has two or three blank pages to write down his inspirations, the fruits of his prayer. The idea is really to take the reader by the hand, to guide him from the beginning to the end of the retreat.

How to best live it?

It is first and foremost a question of decision: I decide to do a retreat by listening to a spiritual figure, and I am therefore not going to read the book like any book of spirituality or to learn things. It is an approach that requires getting involved, committing internally, resolutely. If I can’t move geographically, I still have to put myself in conditions of withdrawal. “But you, when you pray, retire to your most secluded room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is present in secret”, advises Jesus (Matthew 6:6).

I must then allow myself to be led by the preacher by following the unfolding of the texts, set myself times for prayer during the day, try to make the teaching received mine so that it can be incarnated in my life. For example, the detachment of which Saint John of the Cross speaks, how do I live it in my concrete life? What are my difficulties? How can I progress?

How to reap the benefits in the long term, so that retirement is not just a parenthesis?

On the last day, during the proofreading, I identify the points that deserve to be taken up again, and I take steps to better live my Christian life. Because it is important to have an outside perspective, I can have myself checked with a brother or a sister if I am in an abbey, or with my spiritual guide, my priest, my confessor, committed friends, etc.

And, if ever I made a good companionship with such or such figure of holiness, why not deepen it by reading other works which are devoted to him? It’s also good to pick up the book later in the year, to see where we are.

What spiritual figures have you highlighted so far?

They are very varied, so that everyone can be reached in their sensitivity: from Jean de la Croix to the Curé of Ars, from Thérèse of the Child Jesus to Charles de Foucauld, from Marie Guyart of the Incarnation to Little Sister Magdeleine . Thirteen books have already been published, and the next, scheduled for September, will be devoted to Bernadette Soubirous. I asked Father André Cabes, former rector of the Sanctuary of Lourdes, to preach this retreat: since he knows Bernadette very well, he can talk about it simply. Because our works are not scientific studies, but accessible texts. This simplicity is essential for the reader to be able to live his retirement to the full.’ Alexia Vidot

Read in the “Spiritual Retreat” collection
Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, Curé of Ars. To belong entirely to God, by Vincent Siret, €14.90.
Like Jesus. Little Sister Magdeleine, by Patricia Guylaine de Jesus, €14.90.
Path of liberation with Charles de Foucauld, by Thierry Magnin and little sister Bernadette Colette, €14.90.
The Spiritual Canticle of John of the Cross, by Pierre-Marie Salingardes, €14.
With Mariam, enter into the joy of the Spirit, by William-Marie Merchat, €14.

How to make the most of a spiritual retreat?