Katie Faley: Making a New Year’s resolution to retreat — in a good way

Cause of Our Joy l Katie Faley

With the new year usually comes resolutions. One of my resolutions this year is to make one retreat. I used to go on retreat at least once a year until COVID-19 interrupted in-person events. Now that it’s safer to gather, I want to add this practice back into my spiritual life.

Making a retreat is not a requirement of the Catholic life, but it’s something worth doing. Especially because Jesus made retreats. In Matthew 14:23, Jesus went up to the mountain to be alone and pray. Making a retreat is one of the ways we can imitate Jesus.

Making a retreat is not a requirement of the Catholic life, but it’s something worth doing. Especially because Jesus made retreats.

In college, it was easy to fit a retreat into my schedule. Newman Centers and my theology program in graduate school made it affordable and convenient to go on a guided retreat, often overnight. As I’ve gotten older and entered the working world, I’ve realized that the world doesn’t slow down so I can go and make an overnight retreat.

One of my favorite retreats was a silent, daylong retreat on a Saturday in Lisle. The silence gave me the freedom to go at my own pace throughout the day and spend as much time on the things, like phrases in the reading materials, that stood out most to me. It ended up being a very fruitful experience thanks to that.

Others may prefer more structured retreats. Some may prefer more charismatic retreats, and some may prefer themed retreats, like something during Lent or a retreat on the rosary or the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There are many options throughout the Diocese of Peoria, including ones hosted by individual parishes. There’s truly something for everyone!


In 2020, I had been scheduled to go on a retreat with my best friend. Like many events in 2020, it ended up canceled, but my friend and I decided to make our own retreat from the comfort of our respective apartments. We each planned our own schedule, did our self-planned retreat, and then talked about it the next day over the phone.

While making an actual retreat is great, creating your own at-home retreat can work. It’s kind of like a “choose your own adventure” game.

If you’re doing a “choose your own adventure” retreat, here are some ideas you may be interested in.

Adequate time for rest — The definition of a retreat is to withdraw. Getting away to a monastery/convent or retreat center, or even just being out in nature, is a great way to withdraw from the world (and technology!) and keep the focus on Jesus.

Adequate time for prayer — Just like any relationship, our relationship with God only works with communication. Prayer is that communication which helps us to maintain that relationship.

Spiritual direction — I know I have a long way to go on my path to holiness. Spiritual direction helps navigate that path. On a self-planned retreat, this can even be reading a book written by a saint, for example, “Story of a Soul” by St. Thérèse, “An Introduction to the Devout Life” by St. Francis de Sales, or “Life is Worth Living” by Venerable Fulton Sheen — or a modern take on the writings of saints, like any of Father Michael Gaitley’s or Father Jacques Philippe’s books. But, if you have access to a spiritual director who can offer personalized spiritual guidance, all the better!

Access to the sacraments — Of course, receiving the sacraments is a great thing to try to include in a retreat. Nothing is better than starting the new year off with the gift of mercy through the sacrament of reconciliation. And receiving the Eucharist or adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is integral to a great retreat.

If you’re making your own retreat, you could also turn it into a bit of a pilgrimage to holy sites or parishes in the area. There are some great places in the diocese to make a pilgrimage, not least of which is the tomb of Fulton Sheen at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria!

I haven’t started my planning yet, but making at least one intentional, planned retreat is on my list of resolutions this year.

KATIE FALEY is a member of St. Mark Parish in Peoria and a writing coordinator for OSF HealthCare. She has a master’s degree in theology and theological studies from the University of Notre Dame. Write to her at katiefaleywriter@gmail.com.

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