What Your Retreat Time Might be Like
As you learn more and more about Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center in
Prior Lake MN you may find yourself trying to picture yourself here on a retreat. To
assist you, here’s a ‘not so brief’ description of what your retreat time might be like.
Friday at 6 PM (or so) – After putting in a normal workday it’s finally time to treat
yourself to a retreat. You’ve watched this date approach on your calendar perhaps
with a mix of eagerness and a tiny bit of trepidation, hoping that the experience will
be worth the full weekend devoted to it. At any rate the date is here and you are
winding your way to Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center in Prior Lake, MN.
You arrive at 16385 Saint Francis Lane in Prior Lake and even as you view the
inviting cedar wood sign and follow the long curving driveway you feel some
of your concerns of life already beginning to drift away. You know you are going to
rejuvenate yourself mentally, spiritually and physically over the next 40 or so hours
and the thought of that feels good – you are happy you decided to do this for yourself.
You are greeted by a Catholic Franciscan brother or priest, in fact, he’s holding the
door open for you making sure you feel expected and in the right place. The check-in
team welcomes you, hands you a light packet of retreat information and shows you
to your room. As you skirt the Chapel in the center of the cross-shaped floor plan for
the first time you are struck with the beautiful wood panels, the lofty ceiling and the
huge, lovely crucifix mounted high behind the simple stone altar.
You can tell that this simple chapel with its inviting padded chairs ‘two by two’ is a
sacred space that holds many spiritual stories. You are glad the schedule
shows you’ll be spending several hours here.
You have an hour to unpack, relax and walk around to get acquainted with the lay of
the retreat center inside or out before the official welcome at 7:30 PM.
Friday at 7:30 PM – Upon joining fellow retreatants in the Marian Lounge for the
official Welcome you are pleased by how inviting this room is. It’s spacious with a
fireplace and large picture windows overlooking 60 acres of inviting forested trails
and prairie. Someone is excited because they just saw a pair of deer moving along
the trail. You find a chair in the oval seating arrangement.
Franciscan Priest Jim Kent, Director of the retreat center welcomes the group of
30 – 50 assembled with his easy but helpful manner. This weekend isn’t about
comedy but the frequent easy chuckles brought on by Fr Kent’s comments as he
outlines how the weekend may unfold, make you wonder. You learn that
there are generous periods of free time between the four retreat Conferences (talks)
of the weekend allowing ample time for walks, meeting ‘one on one’ with a trained
Spiritual Director, attending unhurried Confession, journaling or just resting in your room.
In fact – Fr. Kent says that if you find yourself being led by the Spirit for one of
the above activities (or lack of activity) and you want to stick with that as the next
scheduled item approaches, just skip that scheduled activity if you want to. This is a
pleasant surprise. Now you know you truly are going to recharge mentally,
spiritually and physically because you get to shape this time the way that’s best for
you. Somehow, just getting this official ‘permission’ from the Retreat Director to skip
something if you just want extra rest is freeing. Again, you are happy you’re here
and excited for what’s in store.
The official Welcome is followed by Night Prayers in the Chapel. You quickly pick up
the simple refrain led by the Music Director (who you met during the welcome) and
the back-and-forth cadence between the reader at the pulpit and retreatants in the
pews quickly puts the cares of the world, of the outside, on hold and you are on
Night prayers wrap up perhaps a bit quicker than you would like but the calming
music and profound unassuming peace of the Chapel is yours to enjoy for as long as
you wish. The remainder of the evening is yours.
Saturday morning – You enjoy your private room and discover that sharing the toilet
and shower with one other retreatant in the private room on the other side of the
two room suite wall is pretty easy. It’s easy to be in and out of the shower somewhat
quickly but you are glad that you have your own recently renovated fully private
sink and vanity top so you can totally take your time there. After walking around a
bit more to get acclimated you hear an old-fashioned iron bell signifying the start of
Morning Prayer. Back in the Chapel you reflect on the comfy night’s sleep and are
anxious to get your first sample of the retreat centers highly touted ‘cooked on site’
cuisine. But first: Morning Prayer.
Breakfast was just what you needed to feel satisfied and alert for the morning ahead.
Oatmeal like grandma used to make with nuts, fruits, raisins, brown sugar, juice,
coffee and sausage. As you’re crossing the courtyard walking back to your room
after breakfast you are struck by the ‘just right’ level of conversation during the
meal. A few people made small talk but retreatants seem to have a natural sense of if
a person wants to be talkative or prefers mostly silence. There was no pressure to
be either way. The only pressure might be the kitchen crew gently persuading you
to move from the dining room so they can clear the breakfast settings and focus on
Another bell. Maybe you decide to skip this Conference. After all, at the Friday night
welcome didn’t Father Jim say that would be OK? Yes, he did say that but
somehow now that you have permission to skip any part of the program you decide
to maybe just attend them all, because you ‘want to’ now – not because yet another
schedule says you ‘have to.’
Conference time – You realize that the term ‘Conference’ is just retreat speak for a
talk on a specific topic. Styles for these talks differ among retreat centers. Some
centers offer the same spiritual exercises year after year but vary the presenters,
others have almost no talk schedule at all. And others, such as Franciscan Retreats
and Spirituality Center in Prior Lake carefully develop a yearly theme based on
what’s challenging in the world right now then Biblically shining light on the topic.
These four half hour Conferences based on that yearly theme make up the main
structure of the weekend retreat.
The remainder of the retreat follows a similar pattern. Conference – open time,
Conference – open time. You discover you like mixing up how you use that open
time. In one instance journaling a bit on how to integrate the conference topic that
seemed just for you into your life, in another instance meeting ‘one on one’ in a
private setting with a trained Spiritual Director about a spiritual stuck spot for you
or a loved one, in another instance exploring the retreat center’s numerous trails
and outdoor sitting spots or just quietly slipping off to your private room to crash a
Time for another delicious meal – Whew! You can’t eat like this every weekend but
the excellent cooking prepared right on site makes it challenging to moderate. It’s
good knowing there are plenty of ways to steer around items with gluten if you
want to and still enjoy a hearty meal with the offerings at hand.
An optional movie, usually a contemporary take on an enduring human spiritual
challenge rounds out your Saturday evening.
After the movie, because you don’t feel the need to rush off anywhere, (there’s
nothing begging to be cleaned, fixed or watched like there often is on a normal
weekend at home) you decide to just sit in the Chapel on your way to your room.
Maybe then one of those cares of the outside world pops up uninvited. They
certainly have a way of doing that and it dawns on you that you are in a perfect place
right now to give that a little thought, to maybe sort it out a bit and if you’re not
really sure how to sort it out to maybe just give it up, setting it at the foot of that
lovely Chapel cross and letting the Lord deal with it.
There’s no need to rush this.
Maybe a second thought pops up too and you give it the same treatment and all of a
sudden you realize that it’s getting pretty late and maybe you should zip off to your
cozy room again. If you change your mind and want to come back – no matter,
although the lights are dimmed at a certain point the Chapel is there for your
presence at any time.
Sunday – On Sunday morning you wake with a start. Now that you are a little more
familiar with everything you slept surprisingly well, maybe better than
the first night and hope you didn’t sleep through anything.
Double checking the weekend’s schedule on your bed stand you see that you have
lots of flexibility here with a 90 minute period to enjoy Sunday’s lite continental
breakfast before Morning Prayer and the fourth (and final) Retreat Conference.
Then comes Mass, with a homily that somehow tied the day’s readings into the
retreat theme, and all of a sudden (it seems) the retreat weekend is over.
As you are departing – you feel that this all went pretty fast. Maybe a bit too fast.
Now that we are in this blissful state of contentment, relaxation and grace can’t we
just stay another day?
As you share your goodbyes with the Friars and Lay Speaking Staff at the front door
and cross the lot to your vehicle you feel good about how you cared enough about
yourself to take the time to treat yourself to this retreat.
Wow! You notice a bit of hope, optimism and bounce in your step that maybe wasn’t exactly there as
much when you entered that same door on Friday evening. You are thinking about that
phrase on the retreat center’s logo: ‘Find the Missing Peace’ and you think yes, that
sums it up well. You ask yourself why a person can’t set aside at least a
weekend like this every darn year for your Lord, yourself and for the benefit of
those around you then it dawns on you that a lot of people at this weekend’s retreat
said they do just that, and you certainly can too.
As the retreat weekend neared the end some people joked that they want to live at
the retreat center and just stay in that state of bliss always but the Franciscan Friars,
though flattered, were quick to remind them that a retreat weekend isn’t meant to
be a substitute for real life, rather, it’s meant to be a way to send you out into the
world recharged mentally, spiritually and physically to set the table for your best
most joyous real life. Right now, in that palpable, satisfying, light on your feet, Spirit
filled, post-retreat glow, you are inclined to agree.