love is renewed through retreats

religious retreats are wonderful. it has been my axiom that a good retreat is an opportunity to fall in love with God again. this week, is our annual claretian retreat. and this the first time we have done a retreat on the internet together. it started off differently yesterday but i have no doubt that the Spirit will work through our limitations. grace cannot be blocked off so easily if we are open and desire God’s love in our lives.

the focus of retreats can differ. whether it is a youth search retreat or couples marriage preparation or vocational discernment retreat or college awakenings retreat or 30 day silent ignatian retreat or a pax christi peace and justice retreat or the countless others– the Spirit moves us to God who is already present and constantly renews our hearts.

as vowed religious, we are not better or worst than anyone else in the world. but our claretian lifestyle expects us to make two retreats a year– one with the community and a personal retreat. most christians cannot or do not have the opportunity to be away consecutive days from home on a retreat. it can be seen as a luxury. but i do know a number of laypeople who make it a priority to go on retreats. these are folks who are very committed to their faith. does it come, in part, to their openness to go on retreats? my guess is YES!

living as a domestic church with the rhythm of life differs from our claretian lifestyle. because of my promises to God, i am very grateful for the opportunities to make retreats; they keep my relationships fresh and growing– with God, others and ourselves.

in the past, i have always enjoyed making my personal retreat at benedictine abbeys. their liturgies are so prayerful and it is their charism to welcome those who are seeking God. the psalms seem to jump out at us differently when praying them with the monks. each monastery has its own unique feel too. being in the desert is different from being in the mountains or the beach.

all things being equal, i prefer retreats by the beach. still after all these years my favorite beach retreat house is villa maria del mar retreat center in santa cruz, ca. it is literally on the white sands of a gorgeous beach. it is wonderful to fall asleep to the sound of the waves crashing into the shore.

Villa Maria del Mar Retreat Center in Santa Cruz
villa maria del mar retreat center in santa cruz ca

st augustine said:

“to fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances;

to search for God is the greatest of all adventures;

to find God is the greatest of all human accomplishments.”

i discovered these words around the time when i was discerning vocation to the priesthood/religious life. it must have been around 1987. i hear these words differently in 2021 because of the countless life experiences as a claretian priest that have shaped me over the years.

i still believe the truth in augustine’s words of wisdom. retreats help keep these ideals alive.

i pray for myself and my brother claretians this week as we search for God’s love anew– may we find what our heart searches for and may God’s grace be refreshed in our lives and our world.


  1. What a different experience…a retreat that’s online! Sounds like you’ve got the right attitude to make it work and get what you need out of it!

    I love going on retreats! A time to hit pause, be quiet, reflect, rejuvenate. And during these times, a peaceful walk around the block can serve the same purpose.

    Enjoy your retreat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. frarthurcmf says:

      thanks! even with the various home distractions, the online retreat is going well so far

      Liked by 1 person

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