A version of this post originally appeared on our old website. We're reposting it here, updated to reflect our recent Spring Retreat and Alternative Spring Break Mission Trip!
There’s no other way to start this post other than by simply stating that retreats and mission trips are awesome.
Whether they’re silent or loud, well-executed machines or slightly sloppy, the community growth and opportunity for personal reflection has (in my experience) never been wasted on anyone. Given, I’m sure someone somewhere could (and perhaps will) give me a retreat or mission trip horror story, but in my experience and in the shared experiences of the many, many Christians I’ve known, I’ve never heard someone say “Yeah, well, I think retreats and mission trips are kind of overrated”.
So it makes sense when we return from them and are promptly disappointed by life in the Real World. You know what I mean: work is immediately stressful, drama crops up with friends or family, school stresses you out. It’s almost like the Universe itself wants you to struggle after a retreat (and maybe there are forces out there that do…ever think of that?).
Transition back to regular life post-retreat is always difficult, which is why today I’m bringing you a few tips on how to keep that post-retreat or post-mission-trip high:
Don’t think of it as being over. Sure, you’re not at Sister Scholastica’s Supreme Convent or Mount Awesome anymore, but that doesn’t mean that your time of reflection and intention has to be over. Pick something that you really, really liked about your experience and insert it into your daily life. Did you really enjoy that individual quiet time? Set aside a chunk of each day to recapture that. Did Eucharistic Adoration really get you going? Lucky for you, we have entire churches and Holy Hours and Adoration chapels for that! Was it the praise and worship music? That’s why they invented the Third Day or Vineyard or Hillsong Pandora and Spotify stations.
Go on another one. Retreats and trips don’t have to be expensive, they don’t have to include international travel, and they don’t have to always be communal. Find a local monastery that accepts guests, ask your church if there are any coming up, or use one of Busted Halo’s virtual retreats.
Get into some Spiritual Direction. Oftentimes, retreats and trips are times when we struggle with or first encounter serious faith-related questions. You don’t have to (and aren’t expected to) answer these tough questions alone! Spiritual Directors can help spiritual seekers in many ways–figuring out what God wants you to do about a given situation or specific issue, deepening faith, finding the answers to questions, and more. Here at the Newman Center, we refer out to both a trained Catholic Spiritual Director and an Interfaith Spiritual Director. Email us for more information if it sounds like Spiritual Direction might be for you!
Pray. Pray a Rosary, say an “Our Father” every day, bless your meal, start Centering Prayer, read Scripture and do some Lectio Divina! There are as many options for prayer as there are personalities out there. If you want a directed period of prayer and reflection, I highly suggest the Ignatian Prayer Adventure, which leads you through 8 weeks of St. Ignatius’ spiritual exercises, which are pretty great.
You’ve Listened, Now Keep Acting On It. One of the ways that a retreat we held in the past benefited me personally was that it reminded me and inspired me to get back into something I used to truly enjoy as a form of prayer: photography. During our quiet time, I sat against a fence on the grounds of the Weston Priory and marveled at the beauty around me. As I started to notice the intricacy of the lichen on the fence posts and the spiderwebs hanging off nearby blades of grass, I remembered how I used to spend hours outside in Alaska observing God’s Creation through my camera lens and praising Him with every shot. I knew my camera was in my car, so I took the hint and grabbed it, clicking away for the rest of the time we had (check out some of my photos in the collage above…click it to make it bigger). It was soothing and healing and so very wonderful after a years-long break. Photography really is a wonderful time of meditation and prayer for me, and after this experience I vowed to pick it back up regularly. Perhaps you were reminded of the peace and closeness to God that comes from journaling, or reading Scripture more often. Chances are that you heard this reminder during your experience; now act on it. Do that thing you know will keep you closer to God than you were before the experience.
Be Active in a Community of Faith. It’s really difficult to keep a spiritual high (or any sort of spirituality, period) if you’re alone in it. Christian faith is almost always communal, so unless you’re a Desert Monk (and even they get together every once in awhile!), you should be active in a community of faith. That’s why we have The Gathering every week. That’s why we have Holy Happy Hour. That’s why we have the Catholic Student Organization. It’s so we can get together and go on the journey together…and maybe make some great friends in the meantime. Check out the opportunities here at the Newman Center under the “Ministries” tab above.