How to keep busy when you’re on retreat

Dam at carmel
One of the dams at Mt Carmel

When I was at the mothers’ retreat at the Mt Carmel retreat centre the other week I gave them a one-page ‘to do’ list of things that I suggested they try to complete by the end of the retreat at Sunday lunchtime.

When I wrote this list I just thought it was a cute idea that would kind of set the tone for the weekend – but a couple of the mothers have actually found some items really helpful or thought-provoking and some people have been interested to see the list. So here it is:

Mothers Retreat @ Carmel To Do List

  1. Try talk, walking, and breathing slower. Make your movements a bit slower and more deliberate than usual.

  2. Have a nap or a sleep-in (or both). Ask Jesus tonight whether he would like you to use this weekend to primarily catch up on sleep, and/or alone time. Please note the Sunday Mass time and maybe Reconciliation, but feel free to skip the retreat sessions if that’s what you need to do in order to return home refreshed and peaceful.

  3. Hang out in the chapel. Pray if you feel prompted to do so. Otherwise just offer your simple presence in the chapel to His loving Presence. It’s all good.

  4. Grab a cup of coffee and tea and a nice spot and daydream, read, journal, or have a chat with someone.

  5. Go for a walk or run for a hit of endorphins and vitamin D. Try the hill along the road up to the convent, or down the back of the centre to check out the dams and the odd wandering cow.

  6. Soak up God’s love through the gift of nature. Admire the flowering wisteria by the chapel entrance. Don’t stifle the urge if one seizes you to hug a tree or skip along singing Julie Andrews-style. We won’t tell anyone – what happens on retreat, stays on retreat! As Pope Francis observed in Laudato Si: “The entire material universe speaks of God’s love; his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, and mountain: everything is, as it were, a caress of God”.

  7. Consider joining the community for its Morning and Evening or Night prayer. There are print outs in the chapel and it’s easy to follow along.

  8. Please consider leaving your phone turned off. Let your family know that you can be reached through the retreat centre or Marilyn if necessary.

  9. Read and reflect over the Carmelite Conversation prompts before our session tomorrow evening.

  10. Think about this: “The history of our friendship with God is always linked to particular places which take on an intensely personal meaning: we all remember places, and revisiting those memories do us much good.” [Pope Francis Laudato Si 84]. In what places have you really enjoyed feelings of closeness to God, and God’s particular love for you? When you return home can you make a ‘date’ with God to revisit one of them again soon?

Once completed, ask Our Lord which ONE of the above you would benefit from incorporating into your daily life from Monday. How will you do it?

A few times since the retreat I’ve caught myself enjoying pondering something Fr Gerard Moran OCD said in his homily on the Sunday, when talking about the younger son in the story about the Prodigal Son. The younger son didn’t have any high-minded intentions when he returned to his father’s house – he was just hungry. But that was a start, and it was enough for the father to welcome him back so warmly and completely. Hopefully the son was able to straighten his life and relationship with his family after that, but we don’t know. And then Fr Gerard told us a thing his novice master said to him many years ago, that life is a purification of motive.

Life is a purification of motive.

I like that.That’s all I’ve been turning over in my mind this week as I’ve gone for my walks or drove in my car.

I hope my motives are gradually being purified. I hope I can get better at coping graciously with what seems to be other people’s less purified motives too.

**UPDATE – the next mothers’ retreat will be on August 4-6, 2017. Join me?

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