Retreats Can Be Relative

Thanks for your patience 🙂 I’m back after my annual summer blogging slow-down. Each of the past three summers I’ve taken courses in the Master of Nonprofit Administration program at the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame. It’s a condensed academic schedule, making it a pretty intensive program–yet at the same time, I always walk away feeling incredibly refreshed, revived, and excited.

My classmates have varying levels of commitment to a religious faith–some are practicing Catholics, others “drifted” Catholics, Catholic men and women religious, culturally Christian folks, devout Christians, agnostics, and more. Gathering to discuss topics like business ethics, achieving impact in social services, and the strategy of nonprofit service organizations is just an amazing lens to see, at a deeper level, what we as a culture and society are thinking, outside of the world of Catholic ministry.

Proverbs 27:17, As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another is so true, especially for those in ministry. It’s easy to get (for many good reasons!) so engaged with a circle of like-minded, Christian friends and colleagues, that we lose sight of how others who don’t share our worldview think and react to certain situations. Explaining why we think the way we do, without relying on shared foundations or accepted doctrinal truths strengthens my faith and so often leads me to more gratitude and appreciation for how the Holy Spirit has led me and guided me, even in my own ignorance and blindness. 

When I was in formation for a Master of Divinity degree, my colleagues often joked that I’d never been on a “real” or “proper” retreat. Granted, we had 3 retreats a year–some in outdoor settings and some at convents, some more contemplative in nature and some more active–so I’m not entirely sure what they meant 😉 But, during my time in academic theological formation, the times I most felt on retreat, were the couple of times a year I went away for a week or weekend to do Army training. Something about the relatively mundane and repetitive nature of these sorts of annual training, plus living with people from all different walks of life, always enabled me to come back to spiritual and academic formation refreshed.

This summer was chock full of blessings in discernment, in opportunities opening up, in fellowship, and more–for that I’m profoundly thankful to God, and thankful for the blessed refreshment and peace that comes only from the Spirit that I feel as a new school year (my perspective as a teacher) begins. 🙂

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