If you are feeling spiritually adventurous, speak French and are physically fit, consider making this unique retreat, from July 5 to July 16, 2016.
Under a beautiful summer night sky, retreatants will land in Yerevan, in Armenia, a nation whose Christianity predates Rome’s by 80 years. From there a bus will take them to the foot of Mount Ararat, where Noah’s ark came to rest after the flood.
Lucky retreatants will say good-bye to their comforts and pleasant little habits for a 12-day walk in the “Little Caucasus” through the mountains and wilderness that lead to Lake Arpi. They will traverse rock, steppe, and the harsh climate of the mountains, but especially the “human desert,” filled with God: light, color, vegetation, stone, wildlife, majestic beauty that elevates the soul.
God’s presence is noticeable “in the voice of a subtle silence” (1 Kings 19, 13).
This is the sort of retreat one does once in his life. The objective is to take time for yourself and for God away from the world — away from the usual activities and daily stresses — in order to learn to live more spiritually, more in tune with God and to welcome his plan of happiness for us. Throughout Scripture, and in the tradition of the Church (of the wilderness by the Hebrews, the 40 days of isolation of Christ before his passion, through St. Anthony or the blessed Charles de Foucauld), the desert has been the place where humans have discovered the truths about themselves, under the gaze of God and graces showered.
For more than 20 years, the Emmanuel Community has organized retreats in Sinai, Jordan and Morocco, and the testimonies of the retreatants convey strong emotions as they share deep experiences. “The desire to pray is found throughout this journey, thanks to the prayer of the heart. I rediscovered the rosary, and found the Lord’s mercy, through confession.”
The days will be punctuated by the Mass and moments of prayer, worship and teaching. To promote attention to the other, and a sense of service and prayer life, the 65 retreatants will be separated into two “routes” of about 30 people. The Emmanuel Community says “don’t be afraid to come alone, as it only helps the fraternal spirit to become even stronger.”
The retreat in Sinai is open to young people between 25 and 30 years old. It is not restricted to members of the Emmanuel Community but is open to all Catholics who desire to live a rich spiritual experience in the desert. Groups are balanced, male and female. It is best to be able to speak French.
Be prepared to walk for several hours during the day and sleep under the stars. For small travel injuries, each route will include a doctor or nurse. The walking pace is constant but not exhausting; large backpacks are transported by car.