Friday, January 28, 2011

Cobbler's Wife- 7 QuickTakes

This is not a husband-bashing post. The Secret Vatican Spy has asked for tips on making a self-directed retreat (she will be a full-fledged Catholic this Easter!). Reading her post, I was brimming with ideas. Then, I realized, this priest's wife hasn't been on a retreat- self-directed or otherwise- for 10 years- hence, my post title. So, here are 7 quick ideas on making a self-directed retreat; maybe I'll take my own advice one of these days.

7 Quick Tips for Making a Self-directed Religious Retreat

1. Choose a retreat house that allows self-directed retreats or a hotel that is close to a recommended Catholic parish. Call the secretary to confirm Mass and confession times (SVS- make an appointment for a 'session' with the priest; the sacrament of reconciliation will have to wait a bit)
2. Tell family and friends that you are unavailable for the weekend and that you are on a "silent retreat." Give your mom the number to the retreat house and turn off your cell phone. At the most, check phone messages at lunch and dinner. Answer messages with quick texts only if they can't wait until the weekend is over.
3. If you are staying at a hotel: put away the remote. If you are tempted by television, give the remote to the hotel manager. Don't bring a laptop. Bring ear plugs and a CD player with music choices from praise music to chant. Bring your pillow and blanket. Bring your favorite religious icon and a crucifix. Sprinkle your room with holy water (do this even if you are staying at a retreat house) Bring a cooler with food and good coffee and tea so you don't necessarily have to go out for breakfast or dinner.
4. Your schedule depends upon Mass and confession times (and meal times if you are at a retreat house). If I were staying at a hotel, I would make time for: morning prayer, Mass, confession, the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, a few sessions of reading along with journaling, short walks, and evening prayer along with two short naps. 'Outside' activities (Mass, reading/journaling/walking in a park, having lunch) can be in the middle of the day.
5. Use a new journal and a new highlighter to make new notes on any old books that you have found helpful in your spiritual journey. Write a letter to yourself at the beginning and end of your weekend (corny, but effective!).
6. Resources to consider: the Bible (bien sur)- I am really liking my new Douey-Rheims translation; Stacy Mitch's Courageous Love (Bible Study); St Francis de Sales' Introduction to a Devout Life; the biographies of special patron saints; any books to read again
7. Beware of satan. "WHAT!" you say? Well, a running joke during high school, university, and the four years before I got married when I was regularly making retreats (yup- now that I REALLY need them, I don't have the opportunity)- wait for the evil one to rear his very ugly head to ruin the high you feel after a great retreat. You'll find him in a flat tire, a lousy homily the Sunday after you get back, a person who flips you the bird when you accidentally cut him off in traffic, a bill you forgot to pay, etc, etc. Don't be surprised, and don't be discouraged. Just laugh in recognition and contempt when satan tries to ruin what you experienced during your weekend of retreat. Then, call your mom and share about your weekend.


  1. Thank you SO MUCH - this is incredibly helpful.

  2. have a great retreat! I think I am going to try and plan something for the next six months. I really cherish memories of good retreats.

  3. Thanks for the ideas! I love the idea of going to a hotel if there is no retreat house and bringing a new journal. Short walks and short naps would increase my attention at prayer times. Your caveat about Satan is worth hearing. Thanks for posting this!


  4. This post was excellent. I really like your ideas and will hopefully be able to implement some of them. I've been increasingly aware of my tendency to fill up my time with busy-ness; perhaps it's time to go on retreat myself!

  5. This is really helpful! I'm going to print your list so I'll have it handy when I need it.

  6. Interesting! We are so blessed in this diocese to have a full-fledged retreat house and retreats that are offered at least once a month. Now I realize this doesn't go toward self-directed retreat, but the retreats--for the most part--are silent. It's been awhile since I've been on retreat. I'm eager to make one!

  7. The Sisters of the Visitation - founded by St. Francis de Sales, one of the best saints to read for moms/wives IMHO - actually allow married women into their cloister for silent, self-led retreats. They are the only clositered order I know that has this type of ministry. You eat with the sisters (no talking, just listening to spiritual reading), go to daily Mass with the sisters, and chant the Divine Office with them. The rest of the time you have to pray, read, walk around the grounds, or sleep. It is always free (though I always give a donation to offset my cost of food and support the sisters).

    I have found my silent retreats with the Visitation to be wonderful. The structure of the Office and meals keeps me from "wandering" spiritually, while the calm and repose of the monastery really make it a true silent retreat. The sisters are beautiful and holy. Plus it is just amazing to experience the inside of a cloister!

    I just emailed the closest monastery and asked about the process of taking a silent retreat there. I had to send a letter from my pastor, letting the Mother Superior know I wasn't some nutjob, and that was about it as far as logistics go. I went to the Monastery in Richmond, VA,(which has wonderful grounds) and have been at the one in Toledo, Ohio (which is just beauitiful, old monastery).

  8. Thanks for the info, Maria! It sounds like a dream come true- what a beautiful ministry

  9. Wow, this was a great list of suggestions. Back when I was still newly finding my way back to the church I decided to go visit a shrine near where I was attending a wedding. I went to the wedding and afterwards drove an hour west ot the Shrine. I had a hotel for two nights and went to Mass, spent some quiet time with just my thoughts, and went to several talks that happened to be taking place at the shrine (totally by luck! A large group was there at the same time and the shrine only scheduled talks for when that happened, so I lucked out!). It wasn't planned as a silent retreat from my end, but being at a cloistered monastary was definitely quiet! Plus I had neglected to inform anyone where I was (my fmaily had a general idea, but that was about it). I wish now that I had put more thought into it, but at the time I was sort of looking at it from a more tourist point of view, even if in the end I got more out of it then that. Currently I live close to the Gesthamine (I'm sure my spelling is horrible on that) Trappist Monastery outside of Bardstown, KY. They do silent retreats and I hope to be able to do one some day. Love your suggestions!!

  10. Kasclar- I am praying that you will be too busy to take a retreat for quite a while in a few months- so why not schedule a pre-Lent retreat?

  11. Oh, you're good!! That's a good idea, but I don't think I have the time to take off work or anything at the moment, sadly. Good suggestion, though! :)

  12. Passing it on. I should take the advice myself, too. Please post when you start planning your own retreat to prompt the rest of us moms to do the same!


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