A spiritual retreat should have a certain “flow,” an orientation, in which the retreat moves toward a certain spiritual climax. Fr. Jean-Baptiste Rauzan (the founder of the Fathers of Mercy) said that in the parish missions of our community, the priests preach so as to bring people to the Mercy of God in the Sacrament of Confession, and we hear confessions so as to bring people more worthily to receive the Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
A Rachel’s Vineyard retreat also has a “flow,” and it is very similar to that classical model given by Fr. Rauzan. Each Rachel’s Vineyard retreats begin with a series of meditations based in Scripture and with the use of blessings and other sacramentals of the Church. These help to prepare the ground of our souls so that we will be able to receive the grace, love, forgiveness and healing that the Lord Jesus wants to give to us for the sins of our past that have wounded us. Through the course of the retreat, these meditations and spiritual experiences bring us closer and closer to the point where we are able to formally ask the Lord for forgiveness of our sins.
By Saturday evening, most of the retreatants are ready to ask for the forgiveness of their sins in the Sacrament of Confession, which is a powerful means of grace by which we experience the forgiveness and love of the Lord Jesus Christ. This, in turn, leads us to a deeper and more intimate experience of Christ in the Holy Eucharist in our personal time with Him during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Finally, the entire retreat reaches its spiritual climax in the celebration of the “Mass of Entrustment” on Sunday afternoon in which we join with the Lord Jesus Christ in His Sacrifice which He offered for our salvation, and we have the awesome privilege of receiving Him in Holy Communion. Thus, the entire Rachel’s Vineyard retreat follows the traditional flow of a parish mission: the Word of God leads us to the Mercy of God, which in turn leads us to a deeper and more worthy intimacy with Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist.