This summer, the CatholicMatch Institute is hosting a Catholic Retreat for Singles on June 27-29 at the Malvern Retreat Center in Pennsylvania.
Popular retreat director, Father Stephen DeLacy is one of the speakers for the retreat. Fr. DeLacy has been the vocations director in Philadelphia, Pa. since July of 2013. The CatholicMatch Institute spoke with Father DeLacy about the retreat, vocations, and finding God’s will throughout our hectic lives.
You have been asked to participate in the Catholic Retreat for Singles at the Malvern Retreat Center this coming June, why do you think that it is important for single Catholics to participate in events such as these?
I’ll start first by saying that the idea of going on a retreat is very important. We get so easily overwhelmed by the functionality of our lives with work, family life, and just socializing. Things get very busy and as a result we may not be in the strongest place in our relationship with God. Many great spiritual writers recommend trying to do a retreat once a year just to encourage our own spiritual life, and take this time out of our busy schedule to be set apart and simply pray.
Our Lord gave us this example, He often times was sneaking away from the crowd and the apostles to get that quiet time alone with God. Through Christ’s example we can see the importance of prayer. It refocuses us and reaffirms our relationship with God, it strengthens it and helps us to get a hold on where we are with God.
In the context of a retreat experience, there is often times a pronounced sense of community and fellowship with those you are sharing the retreat with. Having this kind of solidarity with other single Catholics who are in the same boat of trying to figure out “what is it God is calling me too?” or “who is God calling me to in marriage?” It is a kind of support that allows people to know that they are not alone and that is the beautiful experience of the Church, She is helping and guiding them. I think it is very important for people to seek this type of experience with community, and first and foremost to renew their relationship with God.
What are some of the topics that you are most looking forward to covering throughout the weekend?
As Vocation director, my specific job is to help men discern God’s call to the priesthood through prayer and being able to help them tune into the signs that God is giving to them and showing them. I am hoping to be able to translate those skills to this audience. I hope to help them take a step back in general, and open themselves to come to know where God is calling them and what tools, specifically through prayer, they can use to help and guide them to doing His will. Our ultimate fulfillment, or joy comes from our ability and capability of doing God’s will. Whether it is figuring out who Mr. or Mrs. Right is, or what your vocation is (be it the priesthood or religious life), God has a plan for each of us. Through our ability to discern what God’s plan is and cooperate with that plan, we will come to experience God’s presence in our lives in the most tangible and intense way. My primary thrust is going to be this kind of discernment in God’s will.
If you had to pick something that you hope people take away from this retreat, what would it be?
The first thing would be to take praying the Our Father as seriously as possible. At one point in the Our Father we say “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” When we say “on earth” we are implying in our own personal life. We should pray the prayer every day, with the intention of “I’m really serious Father, about doing your will in my life,” and every time we pray it, we should recommit ourselves to doing God’s will. This recommitment will in turn dispose us to discerning God’s will.
The second thing would be that there needs to be a quiet time of prayer in everyone’s life. Even if it is just pulling away for five or 10 minutes, you need to allow yourself to be in God’s presence and say “here I am Lord, whatever you want to share with me, I am open to your communication, and your love.” I would recommend for anyone who is really serious about doing God’s will, and this is almost the “fool proof” way of discerning God’s will, is praying before the Blessed Sacrament. Someone who is consistently praying before the Blessed Sacrament, for an hour every day, is guaranteed to know the will of God the Father through the Son.
A lot of times people debate whether there is a calling to the single life. Can you talk a little about the difference between being called to take vows and between just really living that joyful fruitful life as a single person, and trying to figure out what God wants you to do?
Implied in any vocation is that you would have made vows and a promise to God to remain in that state for the rest of your life. Through these vows, such as when two people get married and vow to be married for the rest of their lives, or the vows taken in religious life of poverty, chastity, and obedience, or those of the priesthood, obedience and celibacy, one is implying that they are not going to change from that state of life, that this vocation is their lifelong commitment. The single life is often open to change, if you are single but you are open to getting married or open to whatever it is that the Lord wants you to do, then that in and of itself is a sign that it is not a vocation.
Some people, due to leading a particularly generous life, such as having a commitment to the medical profession, teaching, or other things, might be sacrificing marriage for the state of life that they are in. It is in that type of sacrifice for their entire life that one nears its being a vocation. Certainly somebody can live an extremely fulfilling life, just as fulfilling as someone in a Vocation of marriage or religious life, because everyone shares the same vocation to the universal call to holiness.
If you are living a single life, though it is one of profound generosity, building up the Church with your skills and abilities, living a life of prayer, and a commitment to your own personal holiness, then that could be extremely fulfilling. It is satisfying this call that we all have to be holy and in doing so this state of life can be very fruitful.
As the director of the Philadelphia Archdiocesan Vocation Office, how can single Catholics better discern God’s will in their lives?
I would say continue to be open. Also, the solidarity of being with other Catholic singles offers an ideal situation. Joining with others who are in a similar state of life can be very nurturing. Sharing with each other what is working for one and what is a struggle for another is solidarity and that is very important. I encourage you to come out and have a great time at this retreat.
What are some of the ways that you can encourage Catholic singles to develop community life and fellowship in their own area and dioceses?
It is very easy to put together Catholic events, so step out on faith and do so. Parish bulletins are a great way to advertise these things. Many times people are looking for events along these lines, and even if it is as simple as gathering at a place for dinner and a quick prayer—just an opportunity to gather together.
What would you say to the people who would like to attend the retreat in Pennsylvania, but just need a little encouragement?
I would say two things. First, Malvern is a beautiful retreat center. It has great grounds which include many places to pray the Stations of the Cross, or to walk around and just pray. It is a very comfortable place that allows you to just take a step back from the busyness of life and give God some time. Just being at Malvern would be wonderful.
The second thing I would say is that when we are busy and we still make the decision to give God the time, He always blesses us. You might think “I’m not able to give this time,” but if God is drawing you to this weekend and you step out on faith, He is going to bless your efforts before and after the retreat, and everything that you need to get done will get done. You will have had this experience of going away with God, of spending this time in prayer, discernment, and fellowship with Him. I guarantee that you are going to walk away feeling as though it was very worthwhile, and you will be glad that it was how you spent your time.
Join us for a Catholic Retreat for Singles on June 27-29 at the Malvern Retreat Center in Pennsylvania. Visit our events page for more information and to register online for the Catholic Retreat for Singles.