“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”
Want your retreat experience to last? Then don’t just go back to the same habits as when you left! Let’s take an honest look at what will fuel your Holy Spirit fire and what will stifle it.
1. Make a plan-
Make a CONCRETE and PRACTICAL resolution. Be very specific. Exclude the word “try” and use the word “will.” Word to the wise: things like, I am going to: “pray more,” “pay better attention at Mass,” “be nicer to my brother” etc. are too abstract and will not transform. What is your exact game plan and how and when will you make it happen?
Here are some tried and true ideas from my teenage friends:
Find a daily devotional to help you develop a strong prayer life. I recommend Bob Rice’s 40 Day Spiritual Workout to start. It even has an app that reminds you to pray daily!
Start a prayer journal. Write your prayers and look back often to observe the ways God has answered.
Get to Mass 15-30 minutes early for prayer, journaling, Scripture reflection or spiritual reading.
Learn the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. It’s quick, easy and extremely powerful. Decide exactly when and where you will pray it
Do an Examination of Conscience every night before going to sleep.
Your Blessed Mother wants to introduce you to a deeper relationship with her Son. If you want a spiritual missal for your faith life, check out Marian Consecration through Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory.
When I told my husband I would marry him, my yes to him meant I would say no to every other man in the world for the rest of my life. I didn’t care. All I wanted was Mark, and ten years later I still feel the same way. Marrying him also meant giving up sleepovers, the luxury of having no one steal all the covers at night and being able to eat ice cream at midnight without anyone knowing. But hey, these are all sacrifices I have been willing to face when weighed against the reward. When you love someone, saying yes to that person makes saying no to other things make sense.
We all have vices: those nasty little things that give us pleasure, but not real joy. If you expect to come home from your retreat weekend and see a lasting difference in your love relationship with the Lord, some things are going to have to go. Know thyself. What situations cause you to be tempted to sin? Are your movie or television choices increasing your holiness? Would you play your favorite songs in front of the Lord?
Earnestly ask the Lord for clarity and courage, and He will provide both.
3. “Do not be led astray: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” 1 Cor. 15:33
Do your relationships give glory to the Lord? When polling my teens who have had tremendous success in transforming their retreat high to a way of life, every single one of them listed strong faith community as their number one reason for staying close to the Church. On the flip side, many of them had to distance themselves from friends or boy/girlfriends who caused them to struggle in their decisions. Ask how you can benefit from the programs provided by your youth ministry, but also seek the ways you can give.
On a personal note, one of my best friends from childhood began to struggle with drug abuse in high school. I found myself in more than one dangerous situation when socializing with her and knew it was time to express my love for her, but also distance myself. Senior year, when she was ready for rehab, she knew who to call and I was there. She is now married with four beautiful children. Preaching the Gospel through your actions sometimes means knowing when to stay and when to run.
4. Garbage In = Garbage Out-
Try a 30 day challenge of only listening to Christian music and giving up R-rated movies. God will speak… I promise.
A former teen of mine changed all of his pre-set stations to the local Christian radio in his car. Others have thrown away all of their secular CDs and deleted them from their itunes. None have ever regretted it.
5. Go to the source:
Jesus came to establish a saving Church. Want to find Him… hear Him… feel Him? Head to the Sacraments… He has promised He will be waiting.
Reconciliation- Set up a schedule for yourself and write it in your planner or record it in your phone. For example, set a reminder every third Saturday of the month to “whisper into the ear of Christ” in the Confessional. Then- do it!
Mass- You are what you eat. Receive Jesus as often as possible. If you can get to Mass during the week, make it happen. Resolve to never ever miss Sunday Mass again! Padre Pio says, "It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.” The same is true for your retreat fire.
Adoration- Find out where Jesus will be exposed in the Eucharist in your area. You make it a point to hang out with your best friend during the week, so do the same for the Lord
To sum up, the key to changing a “retreat high” into a lifestyle is to be intentional! He gave you this weekend experience not to be a memory, but a testimony! He wants to give you joy and He wants it to start today! Ask the Lord to help you make a plan and to give you the strength to do it, He will not disappoint!