What if I Can’t Find a Good Retreat Nearby?

By Rhen

Are you considering making a retreat but can’t seem to find the right type of retreat, or a retreat with a topic that is relevant to you?

Depending on where you live, this can be a real problem. In the United States, for example, there are entire states that do not have a retreat center. Even if there is a retreat center nearby, their offerings may be slim or focused on topics that you have no interest in.

What to do if this is the case? Here are a few things you can try.


  • Investigate Parish Retreats

Check with your diocese and local parishes to see if there are any upcoming retreat options. Sometimes, rather than having to travel to a retreat center to make a retreat, the retreat will come to you.

This might involve a Catholic speaker or another priest from around the diocese visiting town for a weekend and presenting a series of talks, with Mass and other prayer sessions throughout.

These can be spread out over multiple days, or they can just be on a single day. Speaking from experience, a single day retreat at a local parish might be just what the doctor ordered if you have a work schedule that includes weekends, have a new baby in the house, or for many other reasons that make a typical weekend retreat difficult to attend.

The cost of these retreats is usually lower because you spend the night at your own house, not in the living quarters of a retreat center.


  • Create Your Own Retreat

This option is less ideal because you lose any interaction with other retreatants and with the retreat director, but it can still be very fruitful. (We are working on an option to give you a chance to be a part of a retreat-focused community even if you can’t get away from home. See the bottom of this article for more info)

It is preferable to get away from home to a quiet place – such as a retreat center or monastery that rents out rooms – but if those options, or your budget, are limited, this could be done from home.

Set aside a weekend and find some material that will be spiritually enriching. Schedule regular sessions to sit down and take in some of that material. Over the course of a weekend you can learn quite a bit about a given topic of the Faith.

In this scenario it is optimal if you can schedule in time for Mass and other prayer sessions regularly.

Everybody has a different preference for the type of material that is most effective – some like reading, some like listening to audio, some like watching video. Pick whichever works best for you.

There are many options for each type of material. Pick a topic that is on your heart and search for a book, audio series, or video series on that. If you are looking for a starting point, some of our favorite suggestions are:

Book: “Walking With God” by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins – this easy-to-read book walks you through the “narrative” story of the Bible – the handful of books that make up the linear story – and explains what is happening, what the writers are trying to convey at difficult to understand points, and how all of the other books of the Bible fit in. This simple book will, without exaggerating, open up the Bible to a whole new level of understanding and appreciation for you.

Learn more about “Walking With God” >>

Audio: “Rediscover Jesus” audio book by Matthew Kelly –Imagine, for a moment, your spiritual life to be like an engine. Over time it may have gotten “gunked up” by misuse or neglect of some sort. This book takes apart the engine piece by piece, cleans it off, and puts it back together to run strong again. It helps you examine nearly every piece of your spiritual life from a variety of angles so that you can dive deeper into your faith.

Learn more about “Rediscover Jesus” >>

Video: “Catholicism” by Bishop Robert Barron – this ten part series will take you around the world, showing you important places in Church history and explaining fundamentals of the Faith along the way. Bishop Barron has also produced other video series in the same fashion, such as “Catholicism: The Pivotal Players.”

Learn more about the “Catholicism” Series >>

Are you looking to go deeper and get the most out of your retreat experience? Our new community is coming – a place to work through in-depth courses on the best preparation for retreats and returning from retreats, a community to share experiences and help you on your journey, and regular challenges to help build your spiritual “fitness” and encourage a strong habit of daily prayer.

We will be opening this course to a small number of people to test and work out the bugs in the coming days. If you would like to be notified about the opportunity to access this community and information before anybody else, enter your email in the box below.

Be the first to learn more about the Catholic Retreats Community

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How to Begin Planning a Retreat

By Rhen


The start of a new year is a very popular time to plan a retreat. Maybe you are interested in doing so, but do you know what to look for, or where to start looking?

Let’s start with what type of retreat to look for.

Types of Retreats

Did you know that there are actually several different types of Catholic retreats?

The type that most people are familiar with is called a “preached” retreat, but there are also “private” and “directed” retreats. The best retreat for you depends upon what you are looking to get out of the experience.

Each of these types of retreats typically occurs at a retreat center. It is often expected that you will spend the duration of the retreat at the retreat center, which is why most retreat centers offer overnight accomodations.

Preached Retreats

Preached retreats are very common and there is a good chance you have heard of one going on at a retreat center or parish nearby.

Preached retreats are typically a weekend spent at a retreat center with a group, and each day there are several talks given by a retreat director or by outside speakers.

This is a great type of retreat to make if you need a boost to your spiritual life and would like to be invigorated with a sense of community by fellow retreatants.

It is also a great option if you are making your first ever retreat. The structure and content are provided, you just have to show up.

The topic of the retreat can vary greatly – from styles of contemplative prayer to the lives of the saints to finding joy in everyday life.

There are often retreats on different topics offered by any given retreat center throughout the year, so with a little bit of searching you should be able to find a retreat that focuses on a topic that is relevant to your current spiritual needs.

When choosing a preached retreat it is important to keep in mind the setting of the retreat center, the daily schedule for the retreat, and the topic being covered. All of these factors should line up with the style of retreat you are looking for.

In most cases preached retreats run from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon on a given weekend.

Private Retreats

A retreat where no formal schedule is provided is called a private retreat.

You might be staying in a hermitage by yourself, or you might be renting out a room at a retreat center. The main point is that there will not be talks given at these retreats – your day is scheduled as you wish.

There are different approaches you can take to a private retreat. You might study a great spiritual book, you may commit to a regular set of prayers each day like the Liturgy of the Hours or the Rosary, or you might just schedule regular periods of prayer and contemplation without a set schedule.

Everybody is different, but in most cases a private retreat will be more fruitful if you have some prior experience with retreats.

Some retreat centers offer hermitages on the property to allow an individual space for a private retreat, and so do some monasteries. In other places, the best option might be one of the rooms in a retreat center.

The length of a private retreat can be adjusted to whatever will work with your schedule.

Directed Retreats

A private retreat in which you meet regularly with a spiritual director is called a directed retreat. A spiritual director is often a priest or religious sister or brother trained to help guide you spiritually.

What is the main benefit of a directed retreat?

The spiritual director will monitor your progress during the retreat. They can offer insights about your spiritual life and give suggestions on how to get the most out of the remainder of your retreat.

The spiritual director uses their unbiased perspective to help you find and correct any deficiencies in your prayer life, and to encourage you to foster the elements that are working well.

If you make a directed retreat at a retreat center or monastery you probably will not get to choose your spiritual director, which is ok. The spiritual director will likely be a priest, nun, or monk who is on staff at the center.

It is important to note that this form of spiritual director is a little different than a spiritual director that you might meet with on a regular basis to discuss your spirituality and everyday life. The spiritual director we are talking about will only be guiding you through the duration of your retreat.

Directed retreats can last as little as a weekend, but it is common to make an eight day or even a thirty day directed retreat as well. Weekend directed retreats might be slightly longer than a standard weekend preached retreat. In many cases the directed retreat begins on Thursday evening and runs through Sunday afternoon.

Finding a Retreat

Finding a retreat that fits your schedule and needs can be difficult. Where you live (or where you would like to make the retreat) makes a big difference.

Start by searching CatholicRetreats.net for retreat centers near you.

Many large cities have several retreat centers, meaning there is likely to be an option available on any weekend that works for you.

More rural areas will have fewer options. There are even entire states that do not have a retreat center.

What to do in that case?

First, for preached retreats, check with your local parish and diocese. Sometimes there is a weekend retreat offered at a nearby parish. If this is the case you may be able to attend the retreat talks during the day and return home at night, which makes the retreat less expensive.

For a private or directed retreat check for a local monastery, or something similar, that may allow you to rent a room for a few days. Many do offer this. You may even be able to join the religious community there for prayer and Mass during your retreat.

If none of these options work for you another option is to use the guided retreat that we compiled using advice from retreat center directors, called “A Do-It-Yourself Weekend Retreat with the Rosary.”

It will walk you through every step of the process and provide you with a schedule of prayer and reflections. Find it here.

The Cost of a Retreat

It is, unfortunately, impossible to give a hard number for the expected cost of a retreat. It depends on the type, length, and location of the retreat. Some centers may ask for a free-will donation, though many will charge a specific price.

If you have questions about pricing or any of the specifics regarding a retreat the best way to learn more is to directly contact the retreat center or parish which is hosting the retreat. Accommodations and retreat details will vary from one retreat center to the next.

Are you looking to go deeper and get the most out of your retreat experience? Our new community is coming – a place to work through in-depth courses on the best preparation for retreats and returning from retreats, a community to share experiences and help you on your journey, and regular challenges to help build your spiritual “fitness” and encourage a strong habit of daily prayer.

We will be opening this course to a small number of people to test and work out the bugs in the coming days. If you would like to be notified about the opportunity to access this community and information before anybody else, enter your email in the box below.

Be the first to learn more about the Catholic Retreats Community

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ACTS Retreats

By Rhen

Across the country there is one type retreat that is especially on the rise, helping to build parish communities through weekend retreats.

They are called ACTS retreats, named for the four pillars of the retreats – Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service.

What Are ACTS Retreats?

ACTS retreats were born in 1987 out of the Cursillo movement. Three men who had been involved in Cursillo wanted to put together a similar program, but with a focus on building parish life and community. The end result was a three day, three night retreat format that was structured similar to the description of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles, especially in Acts 2: 42-47.

ACTS retreats are intentionally less structured than Cursillo retreats, and are meant to take on the traditions and atmosphere of the parish sponsoring the retreat. Some events are required but many of the presentations are selected by the retreat team and director.

While ACTS retreats place an emphasis on building a community over the course of a three-day retreat, the goal is to have the retreatants return to their parish and take on more involvement in day-to-day parish life, not keep themselves apart as a separate group within the parish.

The Purpose of ACTS Retreats

The basic goal of an ACTS retreat is to bring the retreatants into a deeper relationship with God and with fellow parishioners through daily prayer, an emphasis on community in the parish, the study of Scripture, and a spirit of service to God, the parish, and each other.

The Structure of ACTS Retreats

ACTS retreats are three day, three night retreats that start on Thursday evening and run through Mass on Sunday morning. The retreat is usually sponsored by a particular parish for its parishioners, and is typically presented by a team of parishioners who have experienced the retreat in the past. Separate retreat weekends are given for men and women.

The retreat talks focus on the four pillars – adoration, community, theology, and service – and the retreat is guided by Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Since many of the presentations are selected by the parish retreat team, the weekend tends to take on the “flavor” of that particular parish.

The retreat team is led by a Director and is composed of twenty to thirty individuals who have attended ACTS retreats in the past. They organize the retreat, conduct the talks and activities, and provide for the needs of retreatants during the weekend.



How to Bring ACTS to Your Parish

Since ACTS retreats are led by parish members who have participated in the weekends before it takes a little bit of planning to get the program started at a new parish.

The most fundamental way of getting ACTS into your parish is to send parishioners to ACTS retreats with other local parishes until enough of them (twenty to thirty) have the experience to host the retreat with your home parish.

This may or may not be viable for your parish. There is also the option of working with ACTS Missions, who can either send a partial team to supplement your parish team once ten people have experienced the retreat, or send an entire team to lead a series of two men’s and two women’s retreats over the course of two years to get enough people trained to sustain the program at the parish going into the future.

Find out more about ACTS Retreats at ActsMissions.org

What Does ACTS Cost

The main cost of the retreat weekend is room and board for the three nights, which can vary significantly by region. The cost for retreat materials is only about $20. A typical weekend cost falls in the $175 to $250 range.

Where to Find ACTS

ACTS started in San Antonio and has since spread around the world. You can currently find them in at least 58 dioceses in 28 states in the US, as well as Canada, England, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and South Africa.

As of this writing, ACTS has a presence in the following United States dioceses:

ALASKA – Anchorage, 0Juneau

ARIZONA – Phoenix

CALIFORNIA – Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernadino

CONNECTICUT – Hartford, Norwich

FLORIDA – Orlando, Pensacola

GEORGIA – Savannah

HAWAII – Honolulu

ILLINOIS – Belleville, Chicago, Peoria

INDIANA – Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indianapolis

KANSAS – Dodge City

KENTUCKY – Lexington, Louisville

LOUSIANA – Alexandria, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Shreveport

MAINE – Portland

MARYLAND – Baltimore

MASSACHUSETTS – Boston, Fall River

MINNESOTA – St. Paul-Minneapolis


MISSOURI – St. Louis

NEW MEXICO – Las Cruces, Santa Fe

NEW YORK – New York, Syracuse

OHIO – Toledo

OKLAHOMA – Oklahoma City, Tulsa

OREGON – Portland

TEXAS – Amarillo, Austin, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Ft. Worth, Galveston-Houston, Laredo, Lubbok, San Angelo, San Antonio, Tyler, Victoria

WISCONSIN – Milwaukee

VIRGINIA – Richmond, Virginia Military Archdiocese


Cursillo Retreats

By Rhen

If you have ever spent any time scanning the retreat offerings of local retreat centers there is a strong chance that you have seen a retreat title that didn’t make much sense – “Cursillo.” Cursillo retreats are among the most popular retreat offerings across North America. What are they?

What is Cursillo?

The world “cursillo” is Spanish for “short course,” and Cursillo retreats are set up to be just that – a short course in Christianity.

Cursillo was founded in 1944 in Spain and was introduced in the United States in 1957. It is now offered in almost every U.S. diocese.

The retreats are highly structured weekend retreats that run from Thursday evening through Sunday evening. They place a strong emphasis on community and evangelization, and the goal of the retreat is to help Christians to become more fully Christian, enabling them to transform their environment to be more Christian through their daily living.

Cursillo takes place at a local retreat center where retreatants can get away from everyday life and focus for three days and three nights.

Purpose of Cursillo

Cursillo retreats are meant to expand your prayer life and foster continuous spiritual growth that will increase your knowledge about scripture and the Catholic faith. It will also equip you to spread the Word of God in your everyday life in a very natural way.

Who is Cursillo For?

Are you longing to experience your faith more deeply and live it in your daily life?
To enrich your relationship with God, no matter how strong it may be right now?
Are you looking for a community with which to share your faith journey?
Do you want to become more confident in and enthusiastic about your faith and in sharing it in the secular world?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then Cursillo is for you.

That being said, joining a Cursillo is not as simple as just signing up for a retreat.

To get started, a new Cursillo candidate needs to find a sponsor (more on that in a minute).

Both spouses of a married couple are highly advised to make Cursillo together, since the personal and spiritual growth experienced on the weekend are easier to understand and accept when both spouses experience it.

Since the Sacraments are an essential part of the Catholic Cursillo weekend, Christians of other faiths are encouraged to attend a Cursillo that is adapted for their own faith.

It is suggested that those going through especially stressful events in life, such as losing a loved one, wait at least a year before making the retreat so that life can normalize and they can invest fully into a rigorous weekend retreat.

The Need for a Cursillo Sponsor

A unique aspect of the Cursillo movement is the need for a sponsor before making your first retreat. The sponsor must be somebody who has participated in a Cursillo retreat before and remains active with the movement.

Sponsors are meant to explain the weekend to the new retreatant, provide prayer support, help with family arrangements and logistics during the retreats, and provide transportation to and from the retreat site.

After the weekend your sponsor will help you get established in a “group reunion,” which is a small group of Cursillo participants that meet regularly to share their spiritual journey together. These are usually groups of three to five people that meet informally on a weekly basis.

Your sponsor will also introduce you to Ultreya, which is a larger gathering of various group reunions that helps to foster a larger Cursillo community.

The Cursillo Weekend

Each day of a Cursillo retreat begins with morning prayers, ends with night prayers, and includes Mass.

Away from the retreat center other Cursillo participants offer prayer and sacrifice for the success of the weekend throughout the retreat. This is called “palanca,” the Spanish word for “lever,” because it helps to “lift up” the candidates on the retreat.

The first evening of the retreat, Thursday evening, provides a chance for the retreatants to get to know each other. The “retreat phase” starts on Thursday evening and runs through Friday morning. This phase is done in silence and is meant to help retreat participants analyze their own lives and cause them to desire to encounter God.

Friday’s focus is on helping the participants to have a better understanding of themselves. Presentations are made by both the laity and the Spiritual Directors, with table discussions following each presentation.

Saturday is meant to take that understanding of oneself gained on Friday and use that knowledge to grow in relationship with God. Participants examine the current relationship they have with God and hopefully grow in the desire for a deeper and fuller relationship.

The final day of the retreat, Sunday, combines this knowledge of self and relationship with God and helps the participants to discern how to help God in fulfilling His will. The retreatants learn about the different environments they belong to and how they can affect those environments.

At the end of the retreat on Sunday the participants get a chance to meet the larger Cursillo Community and formally enter the Community.

Where to Find Cursillo

Cursillo is offered in almost every U.S. diocese, and around the world. In general, the easiest way to find a Cursillo retreat near you is to inquire through your local diocese. A list of most diocesan Cursillo websites can be found here.

The cost of the retreats varies with room and board costs, but typically runs in the $150 to $250 range.

Retreats for Married Couples: Worldwide Marriage Encounter

By Rhen

When it comes to retreats for marriage couples, one organization sets the standard: Worldwide Marriage Encounter.

The Original Married Couples’ Retreat

For over 45 years WorldWide Marriage Encounter has been offering retreat experiences to help deepen and enrich the relationships of married couples.

WWME offers a variety of retreats, but the most common version is a weekend retreat at a hotel or retreat center that helps couples escape from the busy world and grow closer to each other. These weekends run from Friday evening through Sunday night, and they might also be held in another location, such as a parish, that requires couples to drive in from home each day.

In addition, WWME now offers evening and half-day retreats at parishes.

Retreat Format

Marriage Encounter retreats are held with multiple couples in attendance, but there is never any instance of “group sharing” or “group therapy.”

Talks are given throughout the retreat by a team of volunteer couples, and the couples participating in the retreat are given opportunities to spend time away from the others to discuss topics and share with each other to deepen their relationship.

The format of the weekend provides an atmosphere that promotes honesty and strong communication for couples to grow closer together.

Retreat Details

WWME retreats are offered across the world. In North America retreats are available in English, Spanish, French, and Korean.

While the weekend is presented from the Roman Catholic perspective and is based in Christian thought, it is open to couple of all faiths.

There is no set cost for a WWME weekend – a donation is requested instead. This donation covers the expenses of the weekend. There may also be an application fee for the retreat, which varies from one location to another.

Financial difficulties should not discourage any couple from attending a Marriage Encounter weekend – fees can be waived in  some circumstances and the donation is optional.


If you are looking for a weekend retreat to strengthen your marriage, whether you are newly married or have been married for many years, search out the nearest retreat from the Worldwide Marriage Encounter website.

Retreats for Engaged Couples: Catholic Engaged Encounter

By Rhen

Months of planning goes into your wedding day, but many couples fail to look past the big day to the years of their marriage afterward. Catholic Engaged Encounter offers weekend retreats around the US (and around the world) to help engaged couples do just that.

Engaged Encounter

A popular retreat for engaged couples is Catholic Engaged Encounter. Engaged Encounter puts on weekend retreats including a series of presentations led by a team of married couples and a priest.

The weekends allow engaged couples to get away from the distractions of daily living and prepare for their lives together by honestly and intensively discussing everything from their strengths and weaknesses to their life goals and expectations.

While the retreat is held at a retreat center or similar venue with other couples in attendance, there are no “group discussion” or “group therapy” sessions. Between the presentations time is set aside for the couples to talk privately.

The purpose of the presentations during a Catholic Engaged Encounter weekend is to discuss what marriage has meant to the married couples and how a great marriage consists of much more than just the wedding day.

The presentations will not “tell you how to live,” but they will offer ideas and tools to help you in your marriage and will start discussions between you and your fiancé to help strengthen your relationship.

What is a Catholic Engaged Encounter Weekend Like?

The Engaged Encounter experience varies somewhat depending on your location. Many weekends are held at retreat centers, but some are held at schools or hotels.


The weekend will start on either Friday night or Saturday morning and go through Sunday afternoon. Presentations are held throughout the weekend, with time in between for discussion with your fiancé. There is not much free time allotted during an Engaged Encounter retreat. This is an intense weekend designed to strengthen your relationship before marriage, but not necessarily a relaxing weekend.


In some cases there is lodging provided for the retreat participants (such as at a retreat center with dormitories) but other locations host “commuter” weekends where participants must arrange their own lodging and drive to the retreat each day.

Retreats that provide lodging may put you in a room with a roommate for the weekend but the roommate will be somebody of the same gender, not your fiancé.

Catholic Engaged Encounter Weekends in Spanish

There are options for Catholic Retreats Encounter weekends in Spanish in the United States in both California and Arizona.


The cost of a Catholic Engaged Encounter weekend varies, depending on the location. To find the cost of a weekend in your area you will need to look up local offerings using the map linked in the next section.

Where Are Catholic Engaged Encounter Weekends Offered?

These retreats are hosted in at least one or two locations in almost every state in the US. There are also options around the world.

To find a location near you please visit the Catholic Engaged Encounter Map.

To learn more about Catholic Engaged Encounter, visit their website.

Who Is The Patron Saint of Retreats?

By Rhen

There is a patron saint for almost everything you can think of, so it comes as no surprise that there is a patron saint of retreats. Do you know who it is?

Here is a hint: his father fought against the Moors, his brother sailed with Columbus, and he had his leg shattered by a cannonball in war.

Do you know now?

It is St. Ignatius of Loyola!

This does not come as a surprise if you are familiar with the popular retreat structure known as the Spiritual Exercises, which St. Ignatius developed.

This saint went through a conversion while lying in bed, recovering from the cannonball hit. He suddenly had a lot of down time, so he read the only two books that were around the house. One was about the life of Christ and the other was about the lives of the saints. He was touched by grace and decided to focus on growing closer to God, rather than continuing to work on becoming a valiant warrior.

During this time of conversion Ignatius’s intent was to detach himself from the interests of the world and focus more on the will of God. This is the basis of the 30 day retreat known as the Spiritual Exercises (it is also offered in shorter durations now).

Next time you are preparing for a retreat, or on a retreat, pause for a moment to ask for the intercession of St. Ignatius to help you to have a prayerful and grace-filled experience.

To read more about the Spiritual Exercises take a look at our previous article about it Here.

Theology of the Body Retreats with Into the Deep

By Rhen

A topic that has exploded in Catholic circles over the past couple decades is the “Theology of the Body.” There is a great demand for speakers and retreats focused on this topic so we recently sat down with Jen Messing from Into the Deep to learn more about what her organization does to promote the Theology of the Body.

First, What is the Theology of the Body?

The Theology of the Body is the common name for Pope Saint John Paul II’s meditations, based in scripture, on what it means to be a person made in the image of God. It is based on a series of 129 talks that the pope gave at his weekly Wednesday General Audiences between September of 1979 and November of 1984. These teachings, in short, teach us how to understand the body, how we are called to love, and the vocational call of each person in light of the scriptures. These teachings are somewhat dense and a little difficult to understand at times, but fortunately some great teachers have risen to the challenge of bringing this saint’s teachings to the people.

The History of Into the Deep

Jen Messing first learned about the Theology of the Body in 2001 and started studying the Pope’s teachings soon after. She began taking immersive week-long courses to pursue a certificate with the Theology of the Body Institute. Several of the courses offered are taught by Christopher West, the most well-known of English-speaking Theology of the Body teachers, as well as by Dr. Janet Smith, Peter Kreeft, Fr. Tim Gallagher, and Michael Waldstein. Jen also spent time as an intern with West in 2005.

Jen has been giving talks on the Theology of the Body for more than ten years, and along the way she decided to combine her passion for the Theology of the Body with her passion for the outdoors (Jen helped to found the Frassati Society of Minnesota in 2002). Jen completed training with the National Outdoor Leadership School to prepare for leading outdoor retreats. She also completed her Master of Theological Studies degree to fortify her theological training, and soon after Into the Deep was officially founded.

Into the Deep is a non-profit organization that offers Theology of the Body-based speaking engagements, seminars, study groups, and retreats. The stated mission of the organization is “to facilitate true understanding of our identity, reason for being, and dignity as body-soul persons made in the image of God.”

Currently, Into the Deep offers weekly study groups that dig into the original Theology of the Body texts, talks that introduce groups to the Theology of the Body teachings, and multi-day outdoor camping and hiking trips that double as Theology of the Body retreats.

Theology of the Body Talks

Many of the talks Jen gives through Into the Deep are for high school youth or adult groups who want to understand how to apply the Theology of the Body to their work. The concepts within the Theology of the Body can be adapted to any age, however, because the core theme is the meaning of being a human person made in the image of God. Jen has given talks to groups of elementary-age, middle school, high school, and college students, young adults, women’s groups, engaged couples, parents, crisis pregnancy counselors, and NFP instructors. The message of who we are, why we are here, and how to love like God loves applies to audiences of all ages, but older audiences are able to go deeper into certain topics regarding sexuality and moral issues.

Why Outdoor Retreats?

A major part of the mission of Into the Deep is to facilitate multi-day hiking and camping experiences called “I.D. Retreats”. As their website explains, these retreats infuse “outdoor adventures with Theology of the Body insight. I.D. Retreats bring the unique mission and vision of Into the Deep out to a setting we were made for.”

Part of the purpose of the outdoor retreats is to provide a better venue for helping participants to reflect upon our body-soul reality and other concepts found within the Theology of the Body. Outdoor retreats also allow for great discussion time around a campfire and plenty of time to think, pray, and reflect during the hikes. Even on these outdoor retreats, every effort is made to have regular Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and confession available to the participants.

Sometimes Jen likes to throw an added dimension of trust into the retreats. Into the Deep’s “Roam and Receive” retreats involve traveling to a certain part of the country for hiking and camping, but not making any specific plans for what happens between the start and finish of that retreat. Campsites are not booked and hikes are not planned. The group remains open to wherever the Holy Spirit leads them, and they delve into the Theology of the Body along the way.

Upcoming Into the Deep Talks and Retreats

If you are looking for a speaker to talk about the Theology of the Body for your group Jen is available to be scheduled for such engagements. You can contact her through the Into the Deep website Here.

If you are looking to join in on an outdoor Theology of the Body-based I.D. Retreat, there are a few options coming up in the summer of 2014. For more details about each retreat visit the I.D. Retreats page and scroll down for more details.

Hiking in the Adirondacks with Christopher West, July 11-15
First, Into the Deep will have a booth at the Theology of the Body Congress in Philadelphia July 9 through July 11. Immediately after the conference Jen, along with Christopher West, will be leading a hiking and camping retreat in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. The trip will start the afternoon of Friday, July 11 and end on the evening of Tuesday, July 15. It is open to anybody age 18 and older, but spaces are limited. More information about this trip can be found Here.

Roam and Receive, July 26-August 3
The second retreat of the summer is the Roam and Receive retreat, which will leave from Minneapolis and have Michigan as a target location. No camping reservations are made for this trip, adding to the retreat a level of adventure, trust, and receptivity to what the Lord will bring.. The trip lasts from Saturday, July 26 through Sunday, August 3 and is especially suited for those in their 20’s or 30’s, give or take a few years. More information about this retreat can be found Here.

Camping and Hiking in Northern MN for 5th/6th Grade Girls, August 11-15
Finally, a camping and hiking trip for 5th and 6th grade girls will be taking place from Monday, August 11 through Friday, August 15 near Duluth, Minnesota. More information about this trip can be found Here.

Theology of the Body Resources

If you would like to learn more about the Theology of the Body a good place to start is with Pope Saint John Paul II’s teachings. Text of all of the original talks can be found on EWTN’s website and it is also available in a book called “Man and Woman He Created Them.”
Man and Woman - He Created Them

For more great resources on the Theology of the Body check out TheologyoftheBody.net.

And finally, to learn more about Into the Deep visit idretreats.org.

Now Listing Catholic Retreat Centres in Canada

By Rhen

You have been asking, and now we have improved CatholicRetreats.net even more. When you search the retreat center directory at CatholicRetreats.net you are able to find more that 400 retreat centers across the United States. Now, finally, you are able to search all of the Catholic retreat centres in Canada as well.

This site now lists more than 50 retreat centres across Canada, including listings for current or proposed retreat centres in every province and territory except Nunavut (which doesn’t have any retreat centres). We might mention that the Yukon Territories do not currently have a retreat centre either, but there is one planned for the near future.

Which province has the most retreat centres? Ontario and Quebec each have twelve, so if you are looking for a wide variety of retreat centres in a small area those would be the regions to start looking in. If you speak French then Quebec is obviously the place to look. Many of the retreat centres (and dioceses) in Quebec only have listings in French, though.

Fun fact: Canada has only about a ninth of the population that the United States has. Canada has about an eighth of the number of retreat centres that the United States contains, but the number of dioceses is actually more than a third of the number that the U.S. has. Thus, the number of Catholics served by each diocese in Canada is, on average, a lot lower than in the U.S., but the number of Catholics served by each retreat centre is about the same.

We did a pretty thorough search to create our database of Catholic retreat centres in Canada, but if you know of any that we missed please let us know via our Contact page!

Fasting Retreats

By Rhen

Fasting is a practice that many Catholics reserve only for Lent, but it can (and should) be practiced year-round. One style of retreat that can be great for spiritual discipline and growth is a fasting retreat.

If you look at the schedule for your local retreat center you will probably not see a fasting retreat listed. In recent times fasting retreats have not been widely practiced as such, but throughout Christendom there has always been an emphasis placed on times of dedicated fasting and prayer.

rprata CC BY-SA 2.0 via flickr

rprata CC BY-SA 2.0 via flickr

What is Fasting

“Fasting” is the practice of refraining from food or drink to some degree, according to the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. You may also hear the term “abstinence” thrown around when speaking of fasting. Abstinence refers to refraining from specific food or drink (a common example is refraining from meat).

What is Considered a Fast?

When you try to figure out what a day of fasting looks like you will find many different descriptions. Some would contend that a day of fasting is to be a day without any food or drink whatsoever, and some would say that water is allowed but not food. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) defines days of fasting as the following: “When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may also be taken, but not to equal a full meal.”  See more Here.

When Do We Have to Fast and Abstain?

Catholics are required to both fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. In the Roman Catholic rite fasting is obligatory from ages 18 through 59, and abstinence is obligatory from age 14 and on (as is described Here). Eastern Catholic Rites may have different requirements. Every Friday throughout the year is actually recommended as a day of abstinence from meat, although Catholics (at least in the United States) may follow some other act of penance if abstinence from meat is not followed (except on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday), as is explained in this pastoral statement. Outside of the United States you will have to check with your local bishops’ conference in regards to this requirement.

Fasting and Prayer

There are numerous examples in the Bible of fasting and prayer. Some instances were times of repentance and others were a process of growing closer to God. The latter is what we will focus on here.

Why use fasting to improve our spiritual life? One of the intentions with fasting is that we will replace time that would have been spent preparing food and eating with time spent in prayer. Fasting helps us to both put our bodily desires at bay and focus more intensely on our spiritual well-being. Some say that having a satiated stomach can make us “drowsy” or “lethargic” spiritually. The hunger pangs of an empty stomach serve as a reminder for us to pray throughout the day.

Some Examples of Fasting and Prayer in the Bible

“And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
-Matthew 6: 16-18

“Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.”
-Mark 2: 18-20

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. ”
-Acts 13: 2-3

“And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed. ”
-Acts 14: 23

What Is a Fasting Retreat?

A fasting retreat is simply a dedicated time of fasting and prayer. A retreat like this can take many different forms.

Preached Retreats

You might join in on a regular preached retreat weekend at a local retreat center, even if it is not intended as a fasting retreat, and simply practice some form of fasting. You will still get the spiritual nourishment intended from the scheduled talks and times of prayer during the retreat, and on top of that you will get the added benefits of the practice of fasting.

You might also find a retreat that is specifically focused on fasting and prayer. Sometimes it is easier to hold to a fast when you know that the others around you are also doing so. This is not an exceptionally common retreat theme, but if you watch the schedules of nearby retreat centers you may find one.

Sometimes there are no good options in your area for a preached retreat, fasting-themed or not. You might put on your own fasting retreat of sorts. It is not uncommon to hear of day-long fasts put on by local youth groups and the like. Catholic Relief Services even provides the resources for planning a day-long fasting retreat Here. Their intention is raise awareness of hunger issues around the world but their framework could also be used for a prayer and fasting retreat, both for youth or as a parish-mission style of retreat.

Private Retreats

A private retreat of prayer and fasting is a very spiritually-enriching option. You may recall Jesus fasting  in the desert for forty days in preparation for His ministry (Matthew 4:2). In the early centuries of Christianity there were many who lived lives of fasting and prayer as hermits in the desert. They are often referred to as the “Desert Fathers” and provide us with a great example of the practices of fasting and prayer.

A day or weekend (or longer) spent fasting at a retreat center or hermitage is a great way to mimic this exercise in today’s world, and it is always a fruitful time for prayer and spiritual growth. If you are unfamiliar with the practice of private retreats it may be beneficial to revisit our post about them Here for an overview of what a private retreat might look like for you. Re recommend dedicated times of prayer and journaling, but of course you may have your own method of making a private retreat.

Choosing a Theme for a Private Retreat

There are many ways you could go with the theme for a fasting retreat. Perhaps you will choose to reflect on instances of fasting in the Bible. Or maybe reflections on the Desert Fathers would be appropriate. Another option would be to reflect on writings or homilies about the most important of foods, the Eucharist, or the Mass. You could instead choose to focus on the life of Jesus through the writings of Pope Benedict XVI or through the Rosary. You might even choose not to have a specific theme. You may just read scripture as you feel compelled throughout the retreat, or use the Liturgy of the Hours.

Choose a theme based on what would seem to be the most appropriate for where you are spiritually, and based on what you are interested in right now. If the topic does not interest you it will not hold your attention and be as edifying over several days of focusing on it. Do not stress about about the theme too much, though. God will work in your time of retreat, and you will be better off for just having made the retreat – guaranteed.

Structuring a Private Retreat

If you rent out a room at a retreat center or a hermitage you will have a dedicated time to fast and pray in a quiet and prayerful atmosphere. Some may find it difficult to structure a weekend or longer of unscheduled, uninterrupted time. Some people will be able to approach a time of retreat without a plan – just going with the flow and the movings of the Holy Spirit. Others prefer to have some structure and at least the outline of a schedule to fall back on. If you prefer more structure, below is an example of how you might plan out a weekend-long retreat with a focus on the life of Jesus through the Rosary.

Friday Evening
-Opening Prayer
-Reflection #1
-Journaling Session #1
-Down Time
-Rosary: The Joyful Mysteries
-Reflection #2
-Journaling Session #2

-Reflection #3
-Journaling Session #3
-Down Time
-Reflection #4
-Journaling Session #4
-Down Time
-Rosary: Luminous Mysteries
-Reflection #5
-Journaling Session #5
-Down Time
-Reflection #6
-Journaling Session #6
-Down Time
-Rosary: Sorrowful Mysteries
-Reflection #7
-Journaling Session #7

-Reflection #8
-Journaling Session #8
-Down Time
-Rosary: Glorious Mysteries
-Reflection #9
-Journaling Session #9
-Down Time
-Reflection #10
-Journaling Session #10
-Closing Prayer

The length of each session is variable depending on your hopes for the retreat. Prayer, journaling and examing your spiritual life (and meeting with a spiritual director if possible), and down time are all important aspects to the private retreat.

Have you ever made a retreat that incorporated fasting? What was your experience like?