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 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.
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.
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.