Healthy Soul/Living Out Your Faith/My Life/Teen Life

I Just Went on Retreat… Now What?

I was recently on a road trip this summer across the country from New York to Washington State, and on my way I stopped by Yellowstone National Park to visit one of the most famous active geysers in the world – Old Faithful.

I was sitting at Old Faithful waiting for a burst of boiling water and… boom! The anticipation builds and all of a sudden, the geyser blows – it practically makes your heart stop, it’s so exciting! It’s a moment I will never forget.

But then the geyser dies back down and fizzles out, and you’re left sitting there, waiting…

When will it happen again?

This moment at Old Faithful can be a lot like how we feel after an encounter with Jesus at a conference, camp or retreat. We have an amazing experience with the Lord,we are fired up with the Holy Spirit, and want to spread the Gospel. But then you get home and reality kicks in… where was that feeling you got from your summer retreat? Will it ever return?

Guess what? I have great news for you. The fire of the Holy Spirit that makes you feel so alive does not have to go away or die out when you leave from a retreat. The fire and life of the Holy Spirit is always alive in our hearts, and we always have a choice to let Jesus live through us and animate our lives as we strive to elevate our lives to holiness.

Here are seven ways you can keep the fire of the Holy Spirit alive and spread the Gospel after a summer retreat:

1. Create new Habits

Go beyond the motions in your faith life after a summer conference or retreat. When you get home, consider starting a Bible study, creating a habit of spending time in Adoration or going to daily Mass, or committing to praying a Rosary everyday.

I promise you, if you commit to creating new habits, your post retreat spiritual life is going to be totally “LITTTT!”

2. Pray With Your Friends

After my first Steubenville Catholic Youth Conference, I was assigned a “Prayer Partner.” I waited as the core team handed each of us a piece of paper with the name and phone number of our prayer partners. As these were being handed out, I remember thinking inside my 15-year-old brain, “LAMEEEEE!”. At the time, I thought I would never follow up or hear from this person again after the conference.

I got my paper. I was assigned one of the teens in the youth group named was Josh. Contrary to what I originally thought in my 15-year-old brain, I did hear from Josh. He called me regularly and helped me stay accountable to meeting up and praying with him and a group of guys in my youth group at our adoration chapel. It was awesome.

Guess what? I’m still friends with Josh to this day. In fact, he was a groomsman in my wedding this past July! You really do make some of your closest friends on these retreats and in youth group.

3. Plan a reunion party

After a summer retreat, making time to gather together at your parish to reunite after a week back in the reality of your normal lives is a great way to be reminded of the incredible experience you shared with each other. A great thing we did in my Life Teen youth group was plan bonfires at friends’ homes and invite the youth group to all spend time with each other. These fun get togethers were some of my best memories with my closest friends that I’m still in touch with today.

4. Spend Time Serving

Serving those in need is a great and fulfilling way to put our Catholic faith in action. God serve. Start with those you are most close too. Spend time with your grandparents, maybe go plant those hydrangea flowers that you know grandma’s been wishing were in her front yard, and I’m sure mom would love it if you did the dishes without being asked. Then get out in the community and serve at the local soup kitchen, food shelter or your local parish. This faith in action will put a smile on people’s faces and spread happiness.

5. Read the Bible

I was meeting with one of my mentors once asking how his fire for Christ was always alive and well.

When I asked him this question, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a crumbled up piece of scrap paper — I had no idea what this was… His reason for being on fire for Christ all the time was this crumbled up piece of paper?

My mentor, Justin, grabbed my attention (and probably the attention of everyone else in the room) by lifting his voice up in this crowded coffee shop and said, “BIBLE BEFORE BREAKFAST AND BIBLE BEFORE BED!”

On that crumbled up piece of paper was Justin’s Bible verse of the day that he had written down earlier when he was reading the bible before breakfast.

Justin writes down a daily Bible verse as a reminder of God’s Word. I now do this too, and I have to say that it has transformed my spiritual life. Now I’m always looking for God’s Word to speak to me throughout the day.

God desires to daily speak to us through Scripture. Each day as we read and dive into Scripture, God is speaking to us and guiding us in our lives. Reading the Bible especially fills us up with the Holy Spirit and gives us the strength to go forth and make disciples of all nations! (Matthew 28:19)

6. Incorporate Jesus Jams Into Your Playlist

After I attended my first Steubenville Catholic Youth Conference when I was entering my freshman year of high school, I remember receiving a flash drive that was passed around the youth group to share a giant playlist of tunes we had all heard on the retreat. It was great and kept me rockin’ out for Jesus all summer long and beyond.

Now with apps like Spotify or Apple Music, it’s super easy to make a custom playlist for any occasion with all the songs you love, and share it with your friends. Consider creating a “Jesus Jams” playlist for everyone in your youth group to subscribe to or follow.

7. Share on Social Media About Your Experience

I don’t know about you, but I love social media. Of course, you can find a bunch of funny cat memes or videos on Facebook or YouTube and then realize that a million of hours have passed and your time has been wasted.

That being said, I think that social media is a great tool for evangelization! Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube have done wonders to connect the world in ways we have never seen before. Now more than ever, we as Catholics have a great opportunity to use social media to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:29).

Be a “witness of the Gospel” via social media! Create a Snapchat or Instagram story about your recent retreat experience or encounter with Christ! Tell your friends all about your testimony of how the Lord has changed your life.

Are you going to go viral for next funny cat meme? Or will you go viral for Jesus?

Before you go forth from reading this article with the life of Christ illuminating your heart — I want to leave you with one more piece of encouragement from a Bible verse I love so much: “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). When we think back on the retreat we just experienced — or any retreat for that matter — I’m sure this verse can apply. We saw God’s glory, we felt His grace, and we knew His truth. Jesus Christ loves you. He desires your heart so much and always wants to be with you, He is constantly working to reveal Himself to you in your daily life, and to elevate you to holiness in Him.

About the Author

Nick Longo

Nick Longo is a youth minister and recent transplant to the Pacific Northwest from Syracuse, New York (go Orange!). On those rare occasions when he's not hanging out with his wife, Christina, or trading his Vineyard Vines for vintage flannel, Nick is running This Catholic Life, a ministry on a mission to evangelize the world through the power of social media. Connect with Nick on Twitter and Instagram @nick_j_longo.

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