One of the spiritual goals I set for this year was to go on a spiritual retreat. In the past, I have attended silent weekend retreats at Mount St. Francis in Cochrane, AB.
These days, I have been too busy to go out of town to attend a retreat. I know, just looking at that in black and white looks like a lame excuse. However, I suppose that I can take comfort knowing that I am not alone. Lenten missions have emerged in recent years to appeal to the busy.
What is a Lenten Mission?
The purpose of a spiritual retreat is to get away from our daily distractions and reconnect with God. Without the noise, you can re-balance and re-prioritize as well.
As far as a Parish Mission goes, I will quote Deacon W. Gerard Gautrau from “Reinvigorate Your Faith at Lenten Missions” by Kyle Barrett: “I would say the Lenten mission is the retreat coming to the people rather than the people going to the retreat.” Deacon Gautrau serves at Sacred Heart of Jesus in Norco, LA. As to why it is a Lenten mission, that's because it takes place during Lent.
Over the course of several days, usually a weekend, a guest speaker comes to a parish and gives theme-based presentations and/or meditations. Sometimes, there is music. Whenever possible, free childcare is offered. Spiritual Directors are available for those seeking guidance, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is offered and Mass is celebrated.
My First Lenten Mission Experience
This was my first Lenten Mission. Entitled “Nothing More Beautiful,” it was offered by my hometown parish. Father Clair Watrin gave four sessions this past weekend. I attended the three for adults.
The first session really gripped me. Father Watrin spoke and presented several questions for us to reflect upon. At the heart of it was this: “What is most important?”
To help us, Father Clair asked us, “What do you spend the most time on?” and “What captures you?” What stood out to me is in the busyness of life, what is most important to us doesn't match what we spend the most time on.
Another point Father Clair brought up is that if we lead someone to sin, we are murdering their soul. By extension, you could say each time we sin, we murder our own soul. These were harsh words, but I think Father was trying to drive the importance of our spiritual well-being, and being mindful of the spiritual wellbeing of others.
The second session I attended focussed on love and practising “doing the right thing.” There are two parts to this.
With regards to love, Father Clair spoke of how we all love stories about “heroic love,” such as a complete stranger risking his or her life to save someone in danger. “True love,” he said, “is doing the right thing when you don’t feel like doing it.” Perhaps you are angry with your friend/significant other/spouse/co-worker/child. Doing something caring for that person, even when you don’t feel very loving at the moment is an example of this. “It takes courage to love when you don’t feel very loving,” he added.
On practising “doing the right thing,” Father Clair incorporated a bit of visualization to practise how to respond when faced with a crisis or temptation. The example I gave a friend was this: say you’re a teen and you’re going to a party where there is alcohol. You don’t want to drink, so you practise how to respond to people asking, cajoling or trying to force you to drink.
The final session was on prayer and truly living in the moment. This also spoke volumes to me.
“Every prayer makes a difference,” he said. “Prayer is the most powerful thing in the world.” The thing is, sometimes we just don’t see that our prayers are making a difference. Or sometimes, it takes time for us to see the results of our prayers.
“All there is to life is right now,” Father Clair said. We’re always in a hurry. Or, we’re too busy looking forward, or dwelling on the past.
“Every now moment is an opportunity to surrender to God,” he said. To get close to Him.
This last part truly resonated with me. Lately, I’ve been focussed on “After I get this done, I can [insert blank].” Or, “When I get this done, then I’ll be ready for [insert blank].” During the mission, I realized that things are getting dropped because of this mindset, and relationships with those around me are affected by my tunnel vision.
As I sat there in silence with the other parishioners during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, I mulled over this. Then, variations of the same phrase pop into my consciousness:
What can I do right now to help [So-and-So]?
What can I do right this minute to get out debt?
If I want to ______ what can I do right now to work towards that goal?
What can I do right here and right now to make the world a better place?
Lenten Mission: Closing Thoughts
I enjoyed my first Lenten Parish Mission. This was a great way for me to meet my goal of attending a spiritual retreat.
The biggest revelation that I came away with is that I need to realign so that what I truly find important matches what I spend most of my time. I need to learn how to manage my time more efficiently, so that I can spend more time on the things that matter and less time fretting over the other stuff.