“I’m running away.”
Those were the words I said to my husband and kids not too long ago after a particularly
hectic and stressful week. Of course they didn’t believe me, except for my five-year-old
son, Alex, who wasn’t quite sure if I was kidding or not. No, between work, school,
extracurricular activities and a whole host of other responsibilities, I knew I wasn’t
But wouldn’t it be nice? I thought. Wouldn’t it be nice, as Scripture says,
to “Be still and know that I am God”
(Psalm 46:11)? Wouldn’t it be nice to have more quiet time or go on a retreat?
Actually, we should all be taking some time to “be still.” Scripture says so, theologians
and popes say so, doctors say so, therapists say so. Most importantly, Jesus says
so. Remember those 40 days and nights he spent in the desert?
So if everyone is saying we should, why don’t we? In fact, according to recent polls
on Mass attendance, we’re not even seeking that one weekly hour of quiet and reflection
that we can get at Mass.
I’m a mother of three, so quiet time in my life is definitely in short supply. But
when I do find a spare moment, our faith provides plenty of avenues for reflection,
such as prayer and meditation. And there is certainly no shortage of prayer and meditation
styles to pick from, such as Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises or centering prayer.
There are quite a few self-directed retreats available through books or on the Internet.
In fact, St. Anthony Messenger Press offers an entire line of Retreat With...
books featuring any number of saints or key Catholic figures.
So even if I don’t have time to pack my bags and head off to the nearest retreat
house or monastery, there really is no excuse for me not to take the quiet time that
I need to enhance both my faith and my life. The same thing is true for all Catholics.
to Slow Down and Reflect
Make your own retreat. You don’t need to cart yourself off to a monastery
to go on a retreat. Just schedule some quiet time to be by yourself. Get up an hour
earlier than everyone else or stay up an hour longer at night. Find someplace quiet
where you can be by yourself and reflect. Read the Bible or other inspirational book,
pray or just sit and take in your surroundings. Go for a walk and recite the Rosary
or other prayers along the way.
Make quiet time a priority. Not too long ago, following one too many midday
meltdowns, I established “quiet time” in our house. During that time the kids could
either read, play quietly or sleep (yeah, right) for a designated period of time.
I was surprised at what a positive reaction I got from the kids. In fact, my daughter
Maddie asked if we were going to keep doing it because it gave her a chance to catch
up on her reading.
Encourage a little R&R. When Maddie said that to me, I thought it was a little
odd that she didn’t feel that she could just sit down and rest at any time. But then
after looking at our family schedule, I realized why. So in the future, my husband,
Mark, and I will be encouraging the kids and ourselves—through both words and actions—to
take the time to rest.
Take a family retreat at home. Pick a theme, such as favorite Bible stories
or characters, the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes and structure your retreat
around that theme. You can also decide a time frame for your family retreat. Perhaps
it’s a few hours on the weekend, or a half hour each night after dinner. Figure out
what time frame works best for your family schedule.
Come up with activities that relate to the theme. For instance, have the kids act
out the stories or make something that relates to the story. For the Ten Commandments,
you could work together to come up with your family’s own Ten Commandments. Or you
could develop concrete ways your family can live out the Beatitudes. Just make sure
to build in some alone time for everyone to reflect on the activities.