I don’t know about other retreat houses, but Jesuit retreat houses often offer the opportunity for massage during a retreat. Many women religious as well as lay women involved in ministry are massage therapists and one can sign up for a massage during the retreat.
I had my first massage on a retreat about six years ago and I’ve had one on several retreats after that, including this one. And I’ve recently started to get a monthly massage at a place near where I live.
I had to get over an initial reluctance to spend money treating myself to a massage – it struck me as self-indulgent and I had a guilt about spending money that could be used for better (more charitable) purposes. But I’ve come to realize that my ability to serve God requires that I take some care of my body and massage makes an enormous difference in the lower back and shoulder pain I often suffer from.
Massage during retreat is a very different experience from my monthly massages. When I go to Drew at LaVida Massage, I really need him to work out the knots from sitting for long periods in front of the computer and work hard on the areas that contribute to the lower back pain.
Massage on retreat is about being anointed and blessed with Christ’s hands and Christ’s touch. It is an experience of the sacredness of the body. It is about feeling God’s healing presence. It is a union of the body, the mind and the spirit.
My hope when I leave here is that I can bring back some of the sacredness of retreat house massage to the massages I get at LaVida. To feel them not only as a form of physical therapy, but as the same gift of God’s healing touch.