This lesson is designed to provide chaplain assistants with
insights into the area of religious retreats.
It will answer the
questions - who, why, what, and how, of planning a retreat for Army
This lesson also provides suggestions for planning,
implementing, scheduling, and a common sense style of selling a
retreat program to the commander.
HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL BACKGROUND
The retreat has become a popular experience in the military
community. It is not, however, a recent discovery.
The observance of the Jewish Sabbath may provide the first model
of the retreat.
Many observant Jews retreat from the world on the
Sabbath, focussing on spiritual, family, and natural worlds instead.
In Roman Catholicism, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) was the
first active religious order in which the practice of the retreat
became obligatory by rule.
The Christian institution's need for
periods of solitude to facilitate growth in spiritual life springs
from the example of Jesus who spent 40 days and nights in the desert
in prayer and fasting (Matthew 4: 1-2; 14:23: Luke 5:16).
The first Christians carried out this advice by going into a
kind of retreat immediately after the Ascension to prepare for the
coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:12-14). This example was followed
in the following centuries.
The Desert Monks and the Church Fathers stressed the value of
solitude in achieving peace with self and God.
Saint Gregory the
Great wrote that those who exercise authority do well to interrupt
"the clamor of earthly activity so that they may, by recollection and
prayer, rest within themselves in the bosom of tranquility."