WHEN I was still in school, I wouldn’t miss even a single religious retreat as part of the school’s religious program. Being a catholic school, the institution would also make sure that a retreat or recollection would be held annually.

I treat such activities as important as my academics. They are cleansing activities not for the physical self but for the soul.

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Retreats are not only simple excuses to refrain from our daily routines but are the most opportune time to reflect, refresh and renew our spiritual selves.

I may not be a devout die-hard catholic but I have faith and fear of the Divine. The retreats and recollections are parcels of all that molded me to develop the fear of God and the respect for our fellow.

Retreat, by its literal meaning is to surrender, back out, evade or go away. It may likewise mean re-treat or to heal again, or perhaps to give something good as in treat oneself. When one retreats, it’s not always a sign of defeat. On the other hand, it may also mean a victory. Ask a war tactician and retreat is not always surrender but sometimes an offensive tactic.

To heal is to cure, to mend, and repair. To heal again our spiritual selves is to repent, be sorry and ask forgiveness from what we have done either intentionally or otherwise. When something is healing, it is restored or revert to its original state. Despite the scar, the important thing is the restoration. A treat is often times referred to as a free-for-all feast. When someone treats a friend for a dinner, it is often a sumptuous buffet or a food fiesta.

I consider recollection on the other hand, as a means to collect again or to put the pieces back. When I attend recollections, I pick up my pieces. I recollect my shattered self from my mundane acts. Nobody is perfect anyway.

Recollection, by and large, is collecting again what has been separated, dispersed. It is to regroup or go back to where the pieces came from.

The Lenten season is a time to retreat and recollect. One need not go to a far-situated retreat house to feel and realize what has been scattered in his life. Isolation and solitude are helpful. Prayers are great ingredients.

A reflection is an image of the original. When an object is placed in front of a mirror, we can see a reflection of that image. When we reflect, we see ourselves including the side that we seldom see. We visualize who we really are and how do we look like in front of others who see us.

Reflecting is seeing where are our lives now, what have we done and what have we failed to do. In this journey called life, we sometimes reflect on where we are and where we are heading. Lent is usually a perfect time to evaluate on lives including the sins we have committed.

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While the Catholic Church discourages the reading of the Pasyon (passion and death of Jesus Christ), on an extended period (five days) which I think should be for two to three days only, many Filipinos still keep the tradition alive. In our community, makeshift venues for the Pasyon singing can be found on almost every street blocks. The reading of the Pasyon seemed to be a battle of symphonies. Despite such fact, the tradition seemed to never get tired and continues to live on that younger generations of today still experience and witness such a worthy religious activity.

The Catholic Church likewise reminds everyone that we need not plagiarize the pain Jesus Christ suffered. Flagellation though others consider it their “panata”, does not hold the key to salvation. It’s not all about the volume of blood that flows out from men’s back that matters.

We need not crucify ourselves, to save a soul or two. The same is also a Filipino tradition we inherited from the Spaniards religious influence which cascaded up to the present generation.

With all of these traditional activities, what matters most are the retreat, recollection and reflection of our lives and the cleansing of the soul.

Have a blessed and meaningful Holy Week to all.