make a good spiritual retreat? They are not the same thing, but each has its proper place in our lives. Some folks have told me, “We went on a vacation, and now I need a vacation.” The word “vacation” comes from the Latin meaning, “emptying,” but often people stuff all sorts of busy activities into a “vacation.” Some folks may find going to amusement parks or ice hockey games to be “relaxing,” but others of us come away from parks and hockey games feeling as though we spent the day tearing up old streets with a jack-hammer. I relax by reading philosophy, but others may find that exhausting.
Clearly, we vary in our wants and needs. So let’s ask a few basic questions: What do you do in your life that refreshes your spirit? What helps you “let go” and feel a still peace? My guess is that for many of us in Montana, we find walking in open spaces, taking a casual ride, or climbing hills, or hunting to be refreshing for the inner person. For musicians, playing their instrument or singing can be restorative of spirit; and in general for artists, doing one’s art (painting, sewing, archery, dancing, photography) helps one feel renewed. Concentrating the mind in an enjoyable activity refreshes the soul. Spending one’s energies, especially in stressful or unenjoyable tasks, dissipates the spirit and leaves one feeling tired.
Each of us needs to develop healthy, refreshing “spiritual exercises.” Many Christians (at least in yesteryear) would spend time daily reading the Bible or praying. How many of us take the time to pray, to meditate, to seek God through study? Some of us have discovered the value of making spiritual retreats once a year or so. My concern, however, is that especially our younger members know how to “have fun,” to play games, to keep themselves busy, but few discover the quiet joy of solitude, of taking time to refresh their spirits away from our busy world. On the other hand, some of our parishioners have a love of solitude and quiet, and have learned the art of accomplishing much while remaining in peace. Such an attitude and practice display the art of living well and happily.
Why would Jesus invite or command his disciples to “come away by yourselves to a deserted place?” What need in them did he perceive, and was he seeking to help meet?