As a college coed, I used to go to what was then known as Camp St. Malo near Estes Park, Colorado, for Quest retreats sponsored by our Newman Center.  We bunked in an open room in those days and conditions were primitive.  But we were young and when we were told we would be sledding down Mt. Meeker which rises sharply above the camp, we naively  believed it. 

Mt. Meeker, 13,911 ft


 Those were the days of exercises to build trust among the participants.  Everything was done as a group and we had guitar Masses and lots of feel-good activities designed to build community among the college students.

Within a few years we were attending retreats for married couples at the seminary near our air force base.  Those retreats were marked by feel-good activities, agape meals, guitar Masses and lots of laughter.

I just returned from a retreat at St. Malo Retreat Center near Estes Park, Colorado (same place as Camp St. Malo).  This is the place Pope John Paul II retreated to when he came for World Youth Day in Denver, and there are pictures of him throughout the building.  This is the Chapel of St. Catherine of Siena, sometimes known as the Chapel on the Rock.  You can see why.





 St. Catherine of Siena Chapel



 The retreats I attend now are very different from those of my youth.  This was a silent retreat (as silent as it can be with dozens of women secluded together in the mountains!)  I go once a year and really find that it revitalizes my faith and gets me spiritually back in focus. 


 I tend to start sliding off the track and forget those resolutions I made the previous year.  A silent retreat is led by a priest who gives several meditations during the weekend.  There is lots of time before the Blessed Sacrament to meditate, time for confession and spiritual direction, time to pray and just to be with our Lord in silence.  Mass is celebrated daily.  Because of the behind-the-scenes retreat staff and the conference center staff, the attendees do not have to worry about a thing.  Meals are good, rooms are comfortable (not at all like the old Camp St. Malo) and the conference staff is available for chats or to help with any needs that may come up. 

I guess there is a place for both kinds of retreats in our lives.  I don’t think I would have been interested in a silent retreat at age 18, but nowadays, lots of young women attend.  I started taking my daughter when she was 12 and she was mentioning tonight that she thinks she has only missed two in the ensuing years.  (She is now 25).  The retreats of my youth were centered on others.  Retreats like this are centered on God. 

I feel so blessed to have spent this time.  I hope I stay on track longer than a day.  And Father reminded me to be joyful and to wear a joyful smile.  It was a weepy retreat for me because the lives of our youngest son, my husband and I will change drastically in the next few months.  Our son will either be going to the Air Force Academy or a Catholic University and the nest will be empty.  If you see me weeping or scowling, please remind me that I have every reason to smile because I am a daughter of God, no matter what circumstances I might find myself in.  And please reassure me that Mike is going to be just fine, wherever he goes.