"Retreat? Ayoko na nang retreat. Gusto ko puro abante na!" I got this reply from my college friend whom I invited to a retreat, I can't recall now if it's with the Yuppie Days with the Lord (which I joined sometime 1999 yata), or to the Crossroads Retreat of Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon - Quezon City (my community for single young professionals), which has been offered every year since 2000, and which was adapted from a similar retreat given to college students by Christ's Youth in Action (CYA), Lingkod's roots. This college friend studied in a Catholic school up to the time he entered U.P. and he told me he's had enough of retreats to last him a lifetime. I think he was also referring to a popular tabloid during the early '90's in his comment.
I guess the concept of "Retreat" is not palatable to the world today because it implies having to step back. It means having to relinquish control. It means being forced to give up a portion, say, a weekend, out of a fast-paced, highly efficient, usually stressful, busy life. These could then lead to being "left behind", and consequently, losing, in the world's eys. Whatever it is that could be lost out of that retreat depends on a person's notion of what kind of battle he's fighting. Retreat is as anathema to success as waiting is, if you ask the young and active people of today. That's generally speaking. Some people at different points in their lives search, long, and yearn for God, and end up going to their own retreats. It is my prayer that my college friend, and all of my friends, would find this path sometime.
I went on a weekend retreat once more. I think it was my fifth retreat for the year. Since I've had this kind of schedule for so long, I thought my parents would have gotten used to it by now. Apparently I'm still the strangest child in the family. My Ate who's based in Sydney called up last night. I overheard my father talking to her, saying, "Itong si Ella galing na naman sa retreat! Hindi kaya makulitan na ang Diyos sa kanya? Retreat nang retreat, hindi umaasenso." He was smiling as he said this but I could sense a tone of concern from his voice.
Like most fathers, Papa has great dreams for me. He wants me to have a successful career that would assure me of a safe future. He provided me two degrees so that I could become the best person I could be. Every week, he goes to either Quiapo or Baclaran to pray that his daughters would get married so that he could enjoy grandchildren, and for other reasons that could be in a father's mind when they ask this petition. The path which I am currently taking seemed to him to be the opposite of what normal daughters choose . He and Mama taught us to set our priorities, and they're both probably wondering now what got into my head that caused me to take their lessons to the radical extreme. My heart goes out to them, for all the headaches I have caused and continue to cause.
I closed my eyes, prayed for guidance, and tried to explain once more after the overseas call ended. I told my parents that not all the retreats I go to are the same. I go to retreats with my action group, which at the beginning of this year involved fellow Lingkod women leaders from Luzon. I go to retreats with my community, so last Lent we organized one for brothers and sisters from Lingkod-QC. I go to my own personal, directed, silent retreats, usually at the Cenacle, once and at most twice a year, aside from regular visits for spiritual direction. I get invited to give talks or serve during retreats, and so last February I went to the Crossroads retreat, which five of my lawyer and law student friends attended. Sometimes, retreats are incorporated in other activities I attend. Last July, I attended Scripture Ventures, and my course was the Joy of Discovery in Bible Study, but we were on retreat the whole time. In October, there will be a retreat during the National Leaders Training Conference of Lingkod, and this will be separate for men and women. Last weekend, I was invited to a retreat by my parent community, Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon. I was encouraged to go to learn more about the community. There is bound to be an Advent retreat in my calendar as well.
Since we've had that conversation before, I think my parents tuned out. To them, it all sounded the same. I was frustrated afterwards at myself for failing to explain what I do properly, even though it brings me so much joy to get invited to serve and participate in different kinds of retreats. One of my parish priests said that in their congregation, they are encouraged to go on retreat monthly, and to go through the 8-day retreat yearly. It is my dream to go on an eight-day retreat as well. In my parents' book, that could be the final tell-tale sign that I'm going to be a nun. To me, it's just my way of wanting to be more intimate with Jesus.
Maybe I don't need to do a lot of explaining if I were a holier person to live with. Maybe they don't see the fruits of my retreats - I'm still masungit, that they wonder who's ageing gracefully at our house - they, the senior citizens, or me the singleton; noisy, especially when with my nephews (our latest craze is Monopoly, but my heart can't take it when I have to charge them $600 rent for my two houses at Boardwalk, that I ended up buying Luigi's "Get Out of Jail" card for $300!); lazy (Anak, when do you plan to claim our PLDT directory? Ahh, when I wake up po, which is anytime this year); and hot-tempered, like last week when I was seething with anger when a close friend hurt me unintentionally, but deeply . Or maybe the fruit they're looking for is for me, after at least one of them retreats, to change my mind about my recent decisions and work towards being properly married (with daughters) and properly employed (as a lawyer), and thus be normal.
It's a struggle because I love them and wish I could share everything that I'm passionate about with them. They say we could only understand them when we ourselves become parents. In my case I have to live with this struggle for some more time, then. I guess I need to go on retreats often because otherwise, I would be a much harder person to live with.
To parents - who love us, their children, the best way they know how - may God be their source of wisdom, peace, comfort and hope, that their children are in good hands. :) To retreats - may more people hunger for them and see them as the only way to grow into mature Christians, even if it involves taking one step back from the world's demands.