Welcome to the new and improved parish website! Same web address but greatly improved design, speed, and access. And it’s mobile friendly, too!
This new Blog feature will be a place to share weekly bulletin articles as well as occasional words of inspiration and reflection.
The Catholic Encyclopedia online says the following about the word “retreat”:
If we call a retreat a series of days passed in solitude and consecrated to practices of asceticism, in particular to prayer and penance, it is as old as Christianity. Without referring to the customs of the Prophets of the Old Testament, the forty days which Jesus Christ passed in the desert after His baptism is an example which has found many imitators in all ages of the Church… The religious who sought the solitude of the deserts or the monasteries, or in general those wishing to lead a contemplative life withdrew from the world, in order the more readily to draw nearer to God and apply themselves to exercises of Christian perfection… According to St. Francis de Sales (Treatise on the Love of God, XII, chap. vii), the practice of the retreat was specially restored by St. Ignatius Loyola. We may say indeed that in his “Spiritual Exercises” St. Ignatius has combined the methods of reforming one’s life and seeking the will of God in solitude. The Society of Jesus was the first active religious order in which the practice of the retreat became obligatory by rule.
Each year, all priests are expected to engage for at least a week on retreat. These retreats can take many forms. In 1999, I participated in a thirty day silent retreat based on the spiritual exercise of St. Ignatius (referenced in the definition above). In 2011, I was blessed to go on sabbatical and entered into the Sonoran Desert for a 12 week retreat program at the Redemptorist Retreat House in Tucson, Arizona. Typical retreats though average about a week and can be either directed retreats with a spiritual director to guide you, or self-directed. For the last several years I have opted for a self-directed retreat in SW Florida. I rent a condo there and spend the week in solitude.
I just returned from my yearly retreat there and had a wonderful experience. My goals when I go on retreat include rest, prayer, spiritual reading and encounters with God.
By the time I get to summer, the hectic pace of ministry has left me somewhat weary and in need of a break. This is no different from any of you and I know I am blessed in that most people, particularly parents, are not given the opportunity to retreat; but I am grateful for the chance to just relax for a week and try to catch up on some sleep.
My prayer on retreat is not all that different than what I experience during the year… I just am allowed the opportunity to do more of it. I pray the scriptures each day, recite the rosary while remembering all the intentions you have asked me to pray for and spend time listening to the Lord’s call in my life.
Four years ago, when I discovered I was to be the new pastor at St. Theresa, I decided to read St. Theresa’s autobiography, “The Story of a Soul,” to help prepare me for my new ministry. After visiting the Shrine to St. Theresa in Darien this past May, I decided to re-read “The Story of a Soul.” I began that process on retreat. As I was encountering those words straight from St. Theresa again, I was amazed at the depth of her faith and her trust in God’s providence in her life. While I was not able to finish the book on retreat, I was very grateful for the depth of prayer it led me to. I look forward to reading the rest of her autobiography this summer.
One of my most powerful encounters with the Lord occurs through nature. In SW Florida, I am a frequent visitor to the Audubon-owned Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, about a half hour east of Naples, which is home to the largest old growth Bald Cypress forest left in North America. One can traverse the swamp on a 2.5 mile boardwalk that takes you through the heart of the park. Visiting the sanctuary is like being transported to another world. I especially like going when the sanctuary opens at 7:00 am, because I am usually the first visitor. At that time, I feel the solitude and the unity with nature… no sounds from planes, trains or automobiles – in fact, the only sounds one hears find their origins in God’s non-human creation. Its stillness and beauty stirs my soul and draws me into God’s presence in the natural world. I’ve probably been to the swamp 30 times over the years, and each time is like the first for me. If you’re ever down in the Naples, Florida area, I encourage you to give the swamp a visit, arrive early and bring the bug spray!
Many years ago, a grizzled veteran of a priest told me that one of my most important tasks as a priest is to pray for my parishioners and their intentions. While I try to do that every day, going on retreat gives me the opportunity to do that in a more focused way. I’m very grateful for that opportunity and want you to know that when you ask me to pray for anything, I take that very seriously and truly believe in the power of prayer. Let’s continue to pray for each other and if you have a need that you would like lifted up in prayer, just let me or one of the other priests (or all of us!) know and we will offer it up.
Enjoy the week and God bless you all.