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Some have asked me how long my retreat will last.  It’s always hard to predict before hand, but I always know when I’ve reached the end.  The end is when when I reach the point where all the things I’ve done during the retreat become things I do every single day, without having to set my mind to it very hard.  The end is when the lessons I’ve learned become deeply engrained and immovable.  The end is when I can face some kind of crisis without totally falling apart.  In short, the end is when my world and everything in it fall back into their correct places, bathed in the light of God.

This particular retreat has been rather lengthy.  But that’s all right.  Such things need as much time as they need, nothing more and nothing less.  It’s not something that can be limited or planned out.

I can’t tell you what relief and rejuvenation I feel.

What I would tell you is this:  You have to rest sometimes.  What my life has been lacking for a long time is rest.  I don’t just mean sleep, although that is very important.  I mean periods of silence, stillness, and simple communion with God.  If you don’t remain in contact with God, you will lose yourself and you will lose your sense of what is truly important.  You’ll get pulled in a thousand different directions.  You’ll pour your time and energy into things that don’t really matter in either this world or the next. You’ll start losing the voice of your Good Shepherd and start getting led about by other voices: the world, the flesh, and the devil. You’ll start becoming somebody you’re not, and you’ll start wanting to be somebody you’re not.  You’ll start letting other things and other people define you and your values.

But in God, you will find yourself again.  That’s what I needed more than anything.  To find myself again.  To be myself again.  To let everything else fall by the wayside: all the distractions, all the noise, all the pride, all the masks, all the walls, all the many things coming between God and me.

Ideally, we should always be making time for rest and for communion with God.  Ideally, we should never let all the other “stuff” intervene and build up so thick around us that we have to have it chiseled away.  The reality is that it can be a really slippery slope.  The reality is that sometimes things have to get overwhelmingly bad before we are compelled to fix them.  At least, that’s the reality for me.  And that’s why I sometimes have to undergo retreats.  I have to force myself with every shred of will and discipline to just withdraw and seek out rest and seek out God.

Things have gotten much better and much easier.  I feel like everything is finally the way it should be.  Thank You Lord!  I hope I can keep myself on the right path… for a while…

Well, this week has been a little bit crazy.  But I still consider it a success.

I had a lot to shake off, and I think I’ve pretty much shaken it off, with lots of help from the Lord Holy Spirit.  Tonight, I’ve reached the point where I feel I can breathe with clear lungs, think with clear mind, and rest a while in peace.  I feel that my connection with God has finally been restored and my ties to the world have been severed.  I feel much more recollected.  I have my eyes back on the prize.

Tomorrow, the real, positive work will begin: the work of overcoming and ascending.  Tomorrow I can pick up my full regimen of prayer and study.  Tomorrow I resume the great journey heavenward.

So far, so good.

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(Image from a painting at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Metairie, Louisiana)

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