First, silence.

Look for a retreat setting that fosters an atmosphere of silence, not as a penance, but as a means for listening to the Holy Spirit and getting to know Jesus while getting to know yourself.

When you make time for a retreat, you're going away to be with God and to deepen your friendship with Him. Too often, in daily life, we're overwhelmed with sensory distractions and can't hear the voice of God. When you go on retreat, turn off your cell phone and unplug yourself from all cyber-communication.

God wants your attention. Everyone else can wait.

Second, the holy Eucharist.

Since the holy Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, it's most helpful for a retreatant to attend Mass and receive holy Communion daily while on retreat. It's also helpful to spend time in silent conversation in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and even to participate in Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament during the course of the retreat.

The Church so warmly recommends Eucharistic Adoration that a plenary indulgence can be gained whenever any of the faithful spend 30 minutes in adoration before Our Lord.

Third, confession.

A retreat is all about seeking, finding and loving Christ. As you spend time in silent reflection and examination of conscience, the Holy Spirit will prompt you to confess your sins to a priest.

Often, the yearly retreat provides special graces to make a deeper examination of conscience, which moves the soul to more profound contrition. Souls sometimes seek to make a general confession of their entire life -- renouncing pride, envy, lust and jealousy -- and so open their souls to the redeeming graces of Christ.

For true and lasting spiritual progress, it's essential that a person make a deep and searching examination of conscience, express heartfelt contrition, and confess his or her sins to a priest.

Fourth, spiritual reading.

What a joy to read the Bible slowly and in silence. How much good it does for the soul!

Pride of place is to be accorded to the New Testament, and first of all to the Gospels. The soul benefits greatly by reading and thinking about the words and actions of our blessed Savior.

Early in the morning is often the best time to feed the soul and spirit with the words of the Gospel. Many have also found it very helpful to read spiritual works by the saints and great masters.

Timeless classics, such as Father Reginald Garrigou-LaGrange's "Three Ages of the Interior Life," or Thomas á Kempis' "Imitation of Christ," or Father Francis Fernandez's "In Conversation with God," are always a good bet.

Fifth, closeness to the Blessed Mother.

After Our Lord ascended into heaven, the apostles gathered around Our Lady and accompanied her in prayer. After 10 days, on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit infused grace in each one in the Upper Room, and the Church was born.

Those days of prayer and petition were fruitful because of the apostle's closeness to the Blessed Mother.

During your retreat, take time to pray the Rosary daily and meditate deeply upon each mystery. As you reflect on the example of the Blessed Mother, you will draw closer to Our Lord.