Msgr. Frederick Dolan, Vicar of Opus Dei in Canada, was asked to explain the surge in spiritual and apostolic activity that occurs once a conference centre gets established in a new area. His answer follows.
Whenever we start apostolic activities in a new country, a top priority is to establish a conference centre. Until then, the apostolate hobbles, so to speak. Formation takes time and requires the proper setting. A conference centre provides all the necessary ingredients for the formation to work its full impact. The talks, classes and meditations are obviously important, but so is the beauty of the oratory, the homey atmosphere of the house, and so forth. And no words can capture the importance of the work of the staff, whose care for the cleanliness of the centre and the elegance of the meals brings to mind the Lord’s favourite destination in Bethany, the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.
A retreat brings us to a screeching halt and makes it possible to take a deep look at the most important elements of our life. Without that pause to focus, it is all too easy to go month after month and even year after year without a clear vision of the important things in life.
St. Josemaria puts his finger in the wound when he writes “Hurrying, hurrying! Working, working! Feverish activity, anxiety to be up and doing.” Later in that same point of The Way he prescribes the remedy: “Calmness. Peace. Intense life within you. Without that wild hurry, without that frenzy for change, you can work from your proper place in life. And, like a powerful generator of spiritual electricity, you will give light and energy to very many, without losing your own vigour and light.” The Way, no. 837.
Someone making a retreat for the first time in many years often comes to the jarring conclusion that they had been ignoring key roles in their life. It only takes a few days of silence and reflection to “reboot” and renew our focus. As a result, we can go about life “giving to each moment the dynamic echo of eternity”, as St. Josemaria liked to put it.