Monday, February 7, 2011

A Family Religious Retreat

Korean family members meet to celebrate the important holidays; they meet to mourn at funerals and rejoice at weddings; but it is rare to hear about a family that meets together for spiritual renewal. The Catholic Times describes such a family that has been going on retreats since 2008.

There are problems for families getting together for any event but this family has been meeting for a retreat since the death of their father in 2007. They decided  that coming together to remember the anniversary of his death with a retreat would make the gathering more meaningful to all.

A retreat--the Korean word has the same meaning as the English word--means we leave behind our ordinary daily activities for a period of quiet time  to commune with God.  This can be done in several ways: a retreat guided by a retreat master, who is available each day for conferences and private counseling; directed retreats, each person meeting with a spiritual director, who suggests scripture passages for prayer and reflection; and private retreats, each person making his or her own schedule.

During the retreats of the family cited in the Catholic Times--a family of seven children (a daughter lives in the U.S.),  members  are spread over three generations, for a total of 30. They have  washed  each  other's feet, embraced each other, sung and   danced together, taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test (a measure of how people see the world and make decisions), and even prepared programs for others that might be interested in a family retreat.

One of the sons has said, " When a family gets together for a retreat, it is more than an ordinary community: a common goal and self-confidence appear, along with a sense of mission, but we also have to work at being more of  an example." They hope in the future to increase the number of programs they have during the retreat.

Whether we will see more of these types of retreats, time will tell. They go against the popular idea of a retreat, and few families would have the close family ties to even bring up the idea. There are many retreat houses, and parish retreats are common; retreats are a part of the life of many Catholics. It would be nice to see the idea of family retreats spread in our society that has seen the breakdown of the extended family. It would  help to forge stronger ties among family members--and bring back nostalgic reminiscences  of what the family was like in their history and literature.

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