Your Complete Guide of What to Expect When Attending a Spiritual Retreat

A spiritual retreat allows individuals to get away from the hustle and bustle of life, so they are able to focus on the condition of their soul and their relationship with God. There are a couple of different types of spiritual retreats that are common in the Catholic faith. Knowing fully what to expect from these retreats will help individuals to be prepared to expect a blessing.

Types of Spiritual Retreats

The simplest definition of a spiritual retreat is to take hours, days, weeks, or months from one’s day-to-day life to focus on God. While some people go on extensive retreats, the average person typically takes a day or two to place themselves away from the demands of life. The following offers information on the two main types of retreats. You can also visit for further information.

Guided Retreats involve a presenter making a presentation at the opening of the retreat. The presenter provides retreat participants with suggested reading. The suggested reading certainly is not mandatory, and participants can read their own selection. Participants are encouraged to seek personal prayer throughout the day.

Self-Directed Retreats can be done in groups or alone. Although this type of retreat is referred to as self-directed, it should really be God-directed. In a self-directed retreat, the individual is encouraged to get away from it all and embrace complete quiet. Often, self-directed retreats take place in nature, allowing the participant to become so still and quiet that they will certainly hear directly from God.

Important Components of Spiritual Retreats

No matter the type of retreat, there are some steadfast components. Those who have never been on a spiritual retreat, sometimes called a “desert experience”, need to be aware of these components, so they will better know what to expect.

Prayer – Prayer is an essential part of a person’s life. Without prayer, you will not receive guidance and direction from God. Liturgical prayer is an essential part of Catholic retreats. When praying, this is not a time where the individuals ask of God. It is a time to pray the sacraments and to place your life in the hands of God.

Reflection – Participants are given plenty of time to quietly reflect on their lives and their relationship with God. The minimum amount of time spent at a one-day retreat is typically around six hours. This offers plenty of time to pray, reflect, and seek thankfulness.

Meals – On-site meals are an essential part of any spiritual retreat. Hunger can cause a person to lose their focus on God, although fasting is beneficial. On-site meals are provided, so participants do not have to leave the retreat site to seek food. Leaving could make a person lose their focus and interrupt the journey God is taking them on.

Restful Setting – To get the most out of any spiritual retreat, the right setting is vital. A restful setting that offers a beautifully scenic appeal is conducive to rest and reflection. Nature walks allow participants to commune with God without the interruption of other people or stress.

Personal Space and Privacy – These should always be a part of any spiritual retreat. Spiritual retreat participants should be given private rooms or their own space to spend time alone with God. These areas will be used for prayer and private reading.

Spiritual Guides – While self-direction is certainly a welcome form of spiritual retreat, spiritual guides do offer great benefit. A spiritual guide is there to direct participants towards meeting their retreat goals. They will meet with the group and individual, to help guide them on their spiritual journey by listening, answering questions, and providing spiritual insight.

Tips for Attending a Retreat

Most spiritual retreats offer their own guidelines for participation, so it is important participants always refer to their guide for direction. There are some steps you can take to ensure you are prepared for the retreat and gain the most benefit.

  • Choose a retreat that offers daily Mass and the opportunity for receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • It is wise to attend a retreat that is at least three days long. Many retreats are held from Friday night to Sunday afternoon.
  • Bring your Bible and a copy of a spiritual book you would like to read. There should be plenty of time for reading.
  • Avoid the use of cell phones or the Internet during the retreat.

While going with friends is an excellent way to spend time at a retreat, it is important you do not talk too much while retreating with friends. The purpose of a retreat is self-reflection and meeting spiritual goals and other people can sometimes impede these.

Benefits of Spiritual Retreats

There are a host of benefits to attending a spiritual retreat annually. Understanding the benefits will help you decide if you should seek a spiritual retreat.

  1. Spiritual retreats offer the opportunity for you to develop a stronger relationship with Jesus. Having an intimate relationship with Jesus is essential.
  2. These retreats allow you to learn more about yourself. Often, day to day life gets in the way of people fully understanding who they are.
  3. Spiritual retreats give you peace with God and with yourself. Inner peace is difficult to obtain with stressful lives that often revolve around work. Getting away from it all brings on great peace everyone should experience as often as possible.
  4. Retreats also allow you to meet others and feel a kinship with those of the same faith. Encouraging one another is certainly a part of any retreat.


While each church handles its own spiritual retreats slightly differently, there are some cohesive elements. A spiritual retreat is one that offers you a refuge from the outside stresses of the world and brings you greater insight into your relationship with Jesus. If you have never participated in a retreat, make sure you take part soon, so you can have the spiritual experience of a lifetime. Whether you choose guided or self-directed, the benefits of these retreats are amazing for your soul and your health.