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 | By Shelley Metcalf

Bishop’s Interview

Retreats Are Good Ways to Listen for the Voice of God


Editor: Bishop, lately I have been considering taking a retreat, which has me thinking about the significance of spending time away with the Lord. What is the value of a retreat?

Bishop Vásquez: In Scripture we read often about how Jesus took time to be alone with God, his Father, in prayer. He found it necessary to be with God before important events in his life, such as choosing his apostles, before he began his public ministry and before his death on the cross. This is why many of our priests in the diocese recently concluded their annual retreat at Cedarbrake Catholic Retreat Center in Temple. Some attended a silent retreat, and some experienced a conference style retreat, and both are beneficial. Our priests and bishops and our deacons are required by canon law to make an annual retreat. We go to refresh and renew ourselves and once again focus on who is most important in our lives – Jesus Christ. He is the one who called us to live this vocation.

Retreats are good not only for priests or religious but also for everyone. Retreats help us listen to Christ and the Holy Spirit. It is a blessing to find some time away where we can be with the Lord and strengthen our commitment with him. For the laity, I realize that many are unable to schedule time away due to family and work commitments. The church does not say that lay people are obligated to do a retreat, but we do encourage laity to make a retreat if it is possible.

There are many types of retreats, such as retreats for married couples, men and women and young people. There are ACTS retreats. Some retreats may focus on healing and others on the mercy and compassion of God. There are endless retreat topics, but ultimately the point of any spiritual retreat is to focus on hearing God’s voice and allowing ourselves to open our hearts to God’s will.
When we allow ourselves this time with the Lord, he will speak and make himself known to us. The Lord desires to communicate and reveal himself and his plan for us.

Editor: These days there are many ways to do a retreat, including from the comfort of one’s own home. What are your thoughts on this?

Bishop Vásquez: I know taking time away may be a luxury and can often be complicated, but it can also be a blessing to spend time on retreat. There are retreats for people who have busy lives and the commitments of families and work. Retreats for busy people often involve dedicating time daily to spend 10-15 minutes in the morning focused on Scriptures or spiritual writings. And then you go about your day with your work and family. Then as the day draws to a close, you again put yourself in the presence of God, reflecting on what you read and how God spoke to you throughout the day through people, events and quiet moments.

These types of retreats may go on for several days or weeks, and it is important to have someone who will guide you through the process. This may be a parish priest or a spiritual director, someone who is trained to help you listen and discern what God is saying.

Editor: Do you have recommendations for reflection material during a retreat?

Bishop Vásquez: I encourage everyone to read the Scriptures, in particular spend time with the Gospels. It is important that we be at home with the Bible and allow the Word of God to speak to our hearts. There are many great saints as well as many classical spiritual authors and modern spiritual writers who you can use as a guide for your retreat and your reflection. Remember to begin with prayer, asking the Lord to open your heart. Then read the passage you have chosen.

Consider spending time before the Blessed Sacrament meditating and reflecting on what you have read and then allowing God to speak afterwards. Take the time to write down reflections that come to mind. Then take that back to your spiritual director and discuss it. Finally take the fruits of your discussion back to prayer. Over a series of days, you will see God is speaking to you in a particular and specific way.

Please do not be afraid to go on a retreat or to do a retreat in your home. Do not be afraid of what God may speak to your heart. God’s voice is always a blessing to hear. My personal experiences at retreats have been very consoling, reassuring, loving and patient. Yes, God may indicate areas of our lives we need to pay attention to, but we are beloved sons and daughters of God, and he has a plan for us. He will provide the graces needed to carry out his plan.

The Diocese of Austin is blessed to have our own diocesan retreat center as well as retreat centers around the diocese. There are many great opportunities in our diocese and across the state of Texas to be able to experience the presence of God.

Editor: What is your prayer for those who are trying to deepen their spirituality?

Bishop Vásquez: May we come to know and believe that we are beloved sons and daughters of God, and we have been made in God’s image. Everyday God is speaking hope and love to our hearts. May Christ who came to save us so that we may have life to the full be with us on our journey. May the Holy Spirit guide and sustain us as we grow in holiness and strive to strengthen our relationships with God and one another. Amen.