Taking a weekend off for a retreat is great gift, and a rather good thing to do annually. A time when everything else can be put on hold, so that you can focus the attention of both your the mind and soul on God and your relationship with Him, and by natural progression, everyone else.
I was fortunate enough this weekend to make such a retreat with about 20 other people, and although my physical health is not currently optimal, spiritually I'm very glad that that I did.
You see, anyone with half a teaspoonful of wisdom is aware that there's a lot more to life than what you see. Add to that the significant tradition over multiple millennia across multiple cultures of inner reflection and prayer and an inquiring mind would be inclined to ask; why?
The much abbreviated answer is that God not only exists, but is much closer to each one of us than we may acknowledge, consider or prefer. We live and move and have our being as a direct conscious act of God's will. He wants us to live, move and have our being.
Much has been discussed and debated by people on this very topic since we began thinking freely, and this will and must continue, as it's a part of a person's coming to terms with God.
Certainly, you need to trust whomever is giving the retreat, otherwise the effort you would spend on contemplation and consideration will be used on analysing the intention of the one directing it. Fortunately I knew from experience that I could fully trust those responsible for the retreat I attended.
Over the years, a great deal has been said about the Catholic church, and what people representing or appearing to represent the church have said and done.
The mystery of the Catholic church and it's relationship with Jesus Christ is something that would be best discussed over many future posts to this blog, but to sum up my thoughts at this time, I'll quote from protestant the historian Thomas Babington Macaulay, using his passage about the longevity of the papacy and of the Church that it serves:
"The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable.
"The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful vigour. The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustine, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. ...
"Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca.
"And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's."