Retreat - Opening Doors
Why would a college-age guy go on retreat? I asked a priest friend of mine to sit down and talk about it.
Fr. Edward Hopkins, LC, is originally from New York. He was ordained in 1991 by St. John Paul II, one of his many claims to fame. I have known Fr. Edward for years and have consistently recognized he has a flair for preaching. His words are engaging and help his listeners encounter God. For several years, he has been working with college-age young men, promoting Christian living and hopefully a few vocations to the priesthood.
What is a spiritual retreat for college-age young men? The key to a good retreat is that it gives them silence: quiet time. They enter a world of reflection, a world of truth. They connect with that need that is already in them. It helps them give a new direction to their lives.
Who needs a retreat more: the guy who feels lost or the guy who has everything put together? Everyone struggles with their woundedness. Those who are less aware of it need it more.
Some guys going on a retreat might feel anxious about it. How should they work on their fears of going on retreat? The first thing is to realize that God has called them to go on retreat. The Lord is with them and has a plan for them. They should understand it is something good the Lord wants for them. The past can be healed. The past can be given a new meaning. God can open up new possibilities for the future. A young man can gain new freedom. One of the best things they can do during college is taking a step back and do a good retreat.
Do you have to want to be a Legionary to go on one of these retreats? Of course not, college men are living a time of discernment. College life is a time of decision-making. These guys need to determine what they are going to do in life. Young men want to be able to make decisions. Are they doing this with objectivity? Are they doing this in dialogue with God? Is there peace in their decisions? These are questions they need to ask. College guys are afraid of making wrong decisions. It’s a big thing. If you are connected with the needs of the world around you, it is going to be hard to make the wrong decision. There are the “big vocational questions” and the “little vocational questions.” All of these require silence and reflection. A retreat brings all of this into play. This is done in relationship to eternal truths: things in your life that do not change.
In Cheshire, we live in an atmosphere of exterior silence. Still, it can be hard to live a retreat. How do we help young men live a retreat well? Do they ever suffer from noise withdrawal? It is good to turn off the cell phones for a retreat. We all get sucked into what we could call “diabolical devices”, tongue in cheek. At a recent Theology of the Body retreat, they not only took away the electronic devices. They even turned off the electricity and used candles and lamps for illumination. This helped the young adults listen to the Lord and do a fantastic retreat. It is not about total silence. There is freedom from normal distractions so we can actually reflect on our lives. There is freedom and the ability to listen. The Lord is speaking. When somebody experiences silence on a retreat, they come out of the retreat having received something from the Lord. The retreat is always fruitful.
What would be one piece of advice for a young man preparing for a silent retreat? It is good to “start the retreat” ahead of time. It is good to put other plans, worries, activities aside, so he can enter quickly into the quiet of a retreat. It is good to increase your own prayer life as you are preparing for a retreat.