Introduction to

I Went on a Retreat 365 Days in A Row!

 The following appears in Tom’s manuscript I Went on a Retreat 365 Days in a Row!

This piece of work will be published by Christian Faith Publishing, Inc. sometime in 2022.

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Introduction

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          There are many reasons why a person decides to pick up a book and start reading it. It may be the title of the book. It could be what others have said about the book. It may also be something the reader saw while skimming through the table of contents, the introduction, or one of the chapters. I am not sure why you picked up this book and decided to read it, but I am so glad you did! Thank you for taking the opportunity to purchase I Went on a Retreat … 365 Days in a Row!

          If you received this book as a gift from someone, then “thank you” to the person who purchased it for you. All profits from selling this book will go to Catholic Relief Services (CRS). These proceeds will be used to help any person or family benefitting from the services provided by CRS. Please visit CRS.org/our-work-overseas to learn about CRS, how they are helping others, and the positive difference they are making in the lives of many people all throughout the world. In addition to CRS’s site, you can learn about the actual people who are benefitting from each and every purchase of this book at the web site YourWillBeDone.life.

          This book is not about me. It is about how the Holy Spirit has been working through me over the past several years. I feel that God is calling me to reach out to help make a positive difference in the life of any person who reads this book. One of these persons is you!

          You are about to go on a journey which will take you through the daily retreats I experienced from June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018. These retreats helped me with facing the challenges of what life had to offer me every day, and balancing the areas of my life which are most important to me – family, faith, self, career. It is my hope that you learn as much as you can about my retreats so that many of them can benefit you with what you may be facing every day of your life. In turn, this may help you with balancing the areas of your life which are most important to you.

     There are several items which need mentioning before you continue on your journey with reading about my daily retreats. Consequently, you will have a better understanding of why I wrote this book, what is in the book, and how this book can help you on your journey of life.

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1.What is a retreat?
2.Why Go on a retreat?
3.Jesus Christ and His retreats
4.Some of my experiences with a retreat
5.The importance of going on a retreat

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What is a Retreat?

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     Several “retreat” definitions listed below are from Dictionary.com. These various meanings work well with what I am trying to convey about what I have done when I go on a retreat, the importance of going on a retreat, and why it is beneficial to experience a retreat every day.

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1.the forced or strategic withdrawal of an army or an armed force before an enemy, or the withdrawing of a naval force from action.
2.the act of withdrawing, as into safety or privacy; retirement; seclusion.
3.a place of refuge, seclusion, or privacy.

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Why Go on a Retreat?

     

            Let’s say that a unified group from one of the armed forces realizes that the enemy is overwhelming and overpowering. One option for the group would be to withdraw from doing battle with the enemy in order to get to a place that is safer, rather than being in harm’s way of the enemy. Withdrawing from the enemy is a way to get to a place that is safe and secure. After withdrawing, the troops can take a respite, regroup, and determine how to go out and fight the enemy after their retreat.

This sounds like something that we do, both intentionally and unintentionally, in real life. There are enemies all around us every day. When I use the word enemies, I am referring to the devil and his evil works. Each one of us has “enemies” we encounter throughout our lives. Just like any armed forces needing to withdraw from the enemy during a battle, we as humans need to determine what our enemies are in life and withdraw from them accordingly. We need to do this in order to take a break, to regroup mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and to figure out how to go back into the world so that we may be better-equipped to face any enemy we may encounter or any other challenges that confront us.

Two definitions of retreat I took to heart when going on a retreat 365 days in a row included “the act of withdrawing, as into privacy” and “a place of refuge, seclusion, or privacy.” When you read about all of the retreats I went on, you will notice that some of the retreats were by myself, some were with individuals, some with a small group of people, some with a large group of people, some were with non-family members, and others were with just my family. All of these retreats were very special to me!

But, there is something very special about going on a retreat by myself. Some people may not feel this way, but having “alone time” with one’s self is such a great thing to do. We as individuals need time by ourselves in order to do things that we would like to do. Spending time alone gives each one of us the opportunity to take a break from everything that may be going on in life in order to regroup mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Being refreshed in each of these areas helps me with living my life the way Jesus Christ taught each one of us how to live – love God with your whole heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus’s teachings about how we should live our lives can be found in the four Gospels, which are in the New Testament of the Bible – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

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Jesus Christ and His Retreats

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Jesus Christ went on retreats time and time again during His three-year ministry of teaching and performing miracles. I look to Jesus Christ as a prime example for why I should go on a retreat, when to go on a retreat, and what to do on a retreat. Listed below are several examples of what Christ did when things may have seemed overwhelming for Him, and He just needed some time by Himself. To fully understand why Jesus may have gone on a retreat at these particular times in His life, I recommend you read the passages in Scripture which precede each of the ones I have listed below:

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 Matthew 14:22-23 – “Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.”
 Mark 6:31-32 – “He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.”
 Luke 5:15-16 – “The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.”
 John 6:15 – “Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.”

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      At the beginning of each chapter of this book, you will notice a depiction of an event that took place during Jesus Christ’s lifetime. Each of these depictions shows Jesus Christ and some of the retreats He went on during His three-year ministry. Steve Rapone, one of my great friends and Brothers in Christ, drew these beautiful pictures you see in this book. I cannot thank Steve enough for his great work, in addition to his awesome friendship he and I have had over the past several years and for years to come!

      Think about this for a moment: Jesus Christ went on a number of retreats throughout His lifetime. Jesus was fully human, just like you and me. This is Jesus Christ, the only prophet in all of history to proclaim that He is God. He is the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Alpha and the Omega, the Bread of Life, Emmanuel, the Mighty One, the Messiah, the Great “I Am,” the Prince of Peace, the Son of the Most High, the Son of God, the Word, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the Resurrection and the Life, Wonderful God, Mighty Counselor – just to name a few. He is the One who stands alone among all the other prophets throughout history. He is the One who changed water into wine, cured the sick, gave sight to the blind, rose Lazarus from the dead, healed a leper, calmed a storm, walked on water, fed thousands with just a few fish and several loaves of bread, was crucified on a cross, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and much, much more!

      After reading Scripture to learn about who Jesus is and what He did, Jesus is one person I can look up to in regards to how I should live my life. If Jesus felt the need to go on a retreat when things were tough or overwhelming at particular times during His life, then I believe it is important for each one of us to do the same. We can look to Jesus Christ in such a way where if He benefitted from the retreats He went on every now and then, then going on a retreat may be beneficial to any person who chooses to do the same.

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Some of My Experiences with a Retreat

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When people hear the word retreat, some may think of a type of religious encounter that people experience on a certain day or a given weekend. A retreat day or retreat weekend may include devotions, rituals, and a set of beliefs pertaining to a particular faith like Christianity.

This is especially true for me. I attended several weekend retreats at the St. Alphonsus Retreat House in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania in the 1970s when I was very young. For the past seventeen years, I have been attending retreats at the Malvern Retreat House in Malvern every November. These Malvern retreats have been great for me for several reasons. First, I am able to learn more about Catholicism and Christianity. Second, I can practice my faith. Third, I enjoy fellowship with family and friends. Fourth, I am able to spend time developing a closer relationship with Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.

In addition to these, there are several specific experiences I enjoy throughout a Malvern retreat weekend. They are listening to different speakers talk about various faith topics, attending a Catholic Mass each day, eating meals with family members and church friends, attending The Stations of the Cross, spending one-on-one time with Jesus Christ through prayer, reading Scripture, and praying in Adoration.

My religious experiences at Malvern are the types of retreats that some people may think about when they hear the word retreat. A Malvern retreat weekend is one type of retreat I experienced while writing this book. But, the majority of retreats that you will read about are different. My retreats did not always involve a religious experience. This may sound strange, but some of my retreats took place when listening to music while lifting weights at Planet Fitness, attending a contemporary Christian concert with Barb, my wife, cooking fish with one of my Brothers in Christ at my church’s Fish Fry, driving Mary, one of our daughters, to her dance studio, eating dinner together as a family at the kitchen table in our home, playing catch with a football with Thomas, our son, researching information on the Internet, or enjoying a coffee while reading a book at a McDonald’s restaurant.

These were all retreats for me. They may be different than what I experience on a Malvern retreat, but they are all what I consider retreats. All of my retreats documented in this book were opportunities for me to set time aside for myself, or to spend time with other people. Setting time aside for one’s self and others is a great way to take a break from everything that may be going on in life to enjoy time by one’s self or to enjoy fellowship with others.

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The Importance of Going on a Retreat

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Whether I experience a retreat like Jesus did or if I choose a retreat that is somewhat different from any of His retreats, going on a retreat is very important to me. These retreats allow me to “take a break” from everything, to focus on different areas of my faith, to enjoy fellowship with my family and friends, and to help me with focusing on the areas of my life that are very important and meaningful to me. Life is challenging at times. It can be challenging for us, because we choose to not properly balance the most important areas of our lives. I feel that people should take the time to determine what areas of life are most important to them. When we do this, we are able to devote time each day to what matters most in our lives.

Some examples of what matters most in my life include going on a coffee date with Barb, playing catch with Thomas in the back yard of our home, attending a church event with my family, praying for a friend who is sick, or teaching my high school students what to expect after they graduate. This list goes on and on.

While you read this book, you will read about what retreats I went on every day for a full year. Not only did these retreats help me with facing the everyday challenges of what life had to offer, but they helped me with focusing on what is important in my life. My daily retreats helped me with being better prepared for what life had in store for me that same day, and for any day in the future. In no particular order, the areas in my life which are most important to me are the following:

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Family, Faith, Self, Career

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My Family includes Barb, my wife, our four children (Christina, Sarah, Mary, Thomas), my parents, Barb’s parents, Barb’s brother and family, my brothers, my sisters, and my siblings’ families. My Faith includes the tenets and beliefs of Christianity and Catholicism. My Self includes anything and everything related to my person. My Career includes teaching various topics in mathematics to high school students and preparing my students for life after graduation.

I find that when I balance these areas – family, faith, self, career – on a daily basis, from week to week, month to month, and year to year, my life flows more smoothly every day for me and others. There are times when I balance these areas as well as I can each day, but sometimes my day does not turn out as well as I would have liked. This is the nature of daily living. We do the best we can with what God has in store for us, and we move on from there. The best way that I know to balance the most important areas of my life is to go on a retreat – every day!

     Going on your own retreats each day may benefit you as well. One of your retreats may be your picking up this book, finding a quiet place to read, and reading different parts of the book. This would be a wonderful way to get away from everything that may be going on in your life and to focus on how this book may benefit you and others. I know that this is what I will do every so often. It is my intention to have at least one copy of I Went on a Retreat … 365 Days in a Row! In my possession or nearby so that I can read it, use it as a reference, and share it with others. Consequently, it would be good to know how this book can best be used by you and others. I recommend several ideas. Choose one or more of the following that works best for you!

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 Read this book like a novel. Start reading about my first retreat on June 1, 2017. Then, read each successive page all the way through to my last retreat on May 31, 2018.
 Spend time looking at all of the items listed in the Appendices. There might be something there that intrigues you. Choose one or more of these. Then, figure out how each one can benefit you and others.
 Read Appendix 19. This is a chronological list of the retreats I experienced each day for one full year. While looking through this list, several of my retreats may strike an interest in you with what retreats you may want to experience.
 Take a look at Appendix 22. This list contains many of my thoughts about various topics – how I view different things in life, how I use my time, how I treat others, and how I live my life on a daily basis. These thoughts may help you with how you view things each day, how you use your time, how you treat others, and how you live your life every day.
 Check out Appendix 23. When I documented each of my daily retreats, several websites were incorporated into some of these days. If you are one who thirsts for learning about Christianity, you will learn much about the Christian faith at these sites.
 Focus on the first page of each chapter. Each of these pages contains the date of one of my retreats, a Scripture passage of one of Jesus’s retreats, a depiction of His retreat, and a description of one of my retreats, similar to Jesus’s retreat on that same page. These twelve pages of the book can be discussed in small group settings at your church.

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      It is my hope and prayer that you truly enjoy reading I Went on a Retreat … 365 Days in a Row!Whether you randomly pick one of the 365 days when I went on one or more retreats, or if you choose any one of my suggestions previously listed, each retreat I experienced may help you with ideas about what you can do on a retreat. While going on your own retreats, you can take the opportunity to take a break from all of what life offers you every day in order to refresh yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

      Getting the opportunity to do this as many as times as you are able to do so can help you with balancing the areas of your life that are most important to you. Take the time to do this for yourself right now. Find a quiet and comfortable place away from all distractions so that you can take a break from everything that is going on in your life. Relaxing by yourself while reading about one or more of my retreats may be exactly what you are looking for at this particular time in your life. Enjoy!