Planning your Next Catholic Retreat: Downside’s Ultimate Guide

Why go on a Catholic Retreat?

Modern day life is often crowded, busy and very fast paced. Accordingly, finding some time to enjoy some focused quiet moments in a reflective place to consider and to raise one’s heart and mind to God has become even more essential. A Catholic retreat is the perfect solution to re-centre and prune our often over cluttered mind, body and souls.

“Let us open our eyes to the light that can change us into the likeness of God. Let our ears be alert to the stirring call of his voice crying to us every day.”
Rule of St Benedict – Prologue vv 9 – 10

However, planning a Catholic retreat – either for just yourself or as part of a group – can often be a daunting process. As a result, we have decided to put this piece together to help make the process as easy as possible. What follows is Downside’s ultimate guide to planning your next Catholic retreat.

Where to go on a Catholic Retreat?

Catholic retreat

Downside Abbey really does provide the most inspiring location for a Catholic retreat.

Deciding where to go on retreat is often the first dilemma that many face; do you pick a religious house that can provide essential guidance? Do you decide on a beautiful location to help inspire that all important self-reflection? Or do you go with somewhere that’s off the beaten track to offer serenity and escape?

What makes Downside Abbey such a special location for Catholic retreats is that what we offer encapsulates all of the above; we are a working monastery in one of only four minor basilicas in the UK set in the beautiful Somerset countryside, all fit with visitors centre that provides cakes, tea and coffee throughout the day and our monastic guesthouse that is available for those men looking for overnight or longer period retreats. Alternatively, we have Ramsay House, that can be used for groups who are prepared to share rooms and bathrooms.

What a Catholic retreat at Downside offers is guidance, routine, tranquillity and peace, somewhere where you can truly focus on what matters.

What to do on a Catholic Retreat?

If anyone wishes to pray, let him simply go in (to the oratory) and pray, not with a loud voice but with tears and singleness of heart.
Rule of St Benedict 52, 4

Another aspect that many people can often find challenging when planning a retreat is what to do. It is often misconstrued that Catholic retreats are about prayers, service and nothing else. Whilst, this, of course, can be the case, retreats can be completely customised and can include anything from meditation to scripture reading, to walks, reflection, spiritual reading and so much more.

To begin planning your Catholic retreat it is often a good idea to pick a theme to guide your activities. For example, discipleship, friendship, responsibility, giving thanks and reflection. If you are stuck choosing a theme, you can choose something more general or we can help you to create the perfect theme for you and your group.

Another thing to consider is whether you want your retreat to disallow all forms of social media, e-mail, phones and the likes. Whilst this can sound daunting in in today’s digital context, removing these devices and services from our lives – even for a day – can really bring an astonishing level of inner peace and sense of focus.

If you want help devising the perfect timetable for your Catholic retreat at Downside, either ask a monk or contact our Abbey team.

How to go on a Catholic Retreat?

Now you have the basics all in place, it’s time to focus on how you actually go on a Catholic retreat. Not physically, but spiritually. It is important to go on any retreat with an open and clear mind. In the days leading up to your retreat date, take the time to consider yourself, your relationship with God, your friendship with others and what you want to get out of the retreat.

This will ensure that mentally you will be the best place to gain the most from your visit and escape. If you want more guidance on how best to prepare for a retreat, please don’t hesitate to get in touch – one of our monks would be more than happy to help!

Now, lastly, enjoy your retreat and the pure sense of calm that you will be filled with on leaving. Catholic retreats truly can reinvigorate and refresh if planned properly. By following the above advice, your Catholic retreat promises to be a success.

Any guest who happens to arrive at the monastery should be received just as we would receive Christ himself, because he promised that on the last day he will say: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’ “
Rule of St Benedict 53, 1

More Information on How to Plan your Catholic Retreat

For more information, or to find out more about Catholic retreats at Downside, or if you require any further information or guidance on planning your Catholic retreat, please get in touch we would love to hear from you.

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If you want to find out more about vocations or the monastic life in general, please contact us. Alternatively, keep up with Dom Anselm via the Vocations Page on Facebook, or read our article on ‘How to Become a Monk.’