I don’t have time for a retreat. I’m already behind on my to-do lists at work and at home. There are calls I need to return and letters to answer. Deadlines loom and cutoff dates threaten.

I can’t take two days out of the equation without setting myself back by weeks. But I need to do it.

Every year I come to the same moment — the time when I realize I’ve made a grave mistake by scheduling my retreat. My imagination goes apocalyptic as I imagine the consequences of so much “downtime.” 

Every year, it seems, I get to the point of picking up the phone to cancel.

And then I remember last year’s retreat, and how it was exactly the right thing at the right moment. I remember the insights I gained on my life and my relationships. I remember the exalted moments alone with the Lord. And I put down the phone, and I go.

This year I thought ahead and managed to schedule my annual retreat during Lent. It will be mostly silent. I’ll be able to rest in the special quality of the season and anticipate the days to come.

It’s rare that I use this space to plead with you, but I’m going to do it now.

Lent is almost here. If you can make a retreat during the season — even if it costs you some effort to clear the schedule and get someone to watch the dog — please, please do it. Jesus was busier than you and I are, and he made time for retreat. Moses and Elijah were busier, and they went 40 days alone with the Lord.

In times past an annual retreat was a normal part of Catholic life. Boys and young men who attended Jesuit schools were expected to make a retreat every year during Lent. Parishes traditionally took laypeople by the busloads for a weekend away at the nearest monastery.

But increasingly we — who are outfitted with countless labor-saving devices — say we’re too busy to go on retreat. What are we missing if we never give ourselves time to stop and think? What are we missing if our “Imitation of Christ” does not include an imitation of his times alone in silence with the Father?

Jesus himself led the first Christian retreat. In the days between his resurrection and ascension, he stayed with his disciples. According to the Church Fathers, this was a time of “mystagogy.” He revealed to them the mysteries of the kingdom. He took them deeper into his doctrine and life. He opened up the Scriptures to them. He broke bread with them.

He wants to do all that with us. So book your retreat now. Don’t wait. And if your next two months are already too full, don’t worry. Retreats aren’t just for Lent. You can take time apart with Jesus during any season of the year, and the hours you spend will be very rich indeed. But do make your reservation today, or you’ll always be too busy.