Thursday, April 21, 2016

Still Another Retreat Experience

“I’ll just keep on talking.”

I was on retreat the weekend before last; it was my third annual retreat at the Jesuit retreat house.

“Third annual,” you may be thinking, “must be a good experience.” Yes, it is / was / and I’m sure will continue to be a good retreat experience.

I was talking to a friend, Travis, about my experience, about retreats in general there ( he was interested in possibly going but had a reservation or two ) and thought it worthwhile to post the things we spoke of. ( For thoughts on my first experience there, click here. )

Both last year’s retreat and this year’s inspired me to reflections about my life and real change. That which I conceived last year has occurred; it’s too early to tell about this year’s, but I believe it’s happening.

Last year’s retreat master ( the priest who delivers the conferences ), Fr S, was old school, and made frequent unflattering remarks about how things are now in the Catholic Church. This year’s, Fr O, was the opposite; he seemed to embrace virtually all of the changes and would take some of them further. Night and day. Both philosophically and theologically I am sure I have much more in common with Fr O than with Fr S. But, and this is the point, I enjoyed both retreats, listened carefully to both of them, prayerfully considered what they said, and took from each constructive change for my life.

Both retreat masters are Jesuit priests. Fr O told us that he and Fr S are friends. He elaborated on that during one conference, “There is nothing he wouldn’t do for me and there is nothing I wouldn’t do for him.” Pregnant pause. “And we pretty much spend our life that way, doing nothing for each other.”

It is a prayer-filled weekend. In ways going there is like my stepping back in time.

I said prayers with the retreatants that I had not said since grade school. The Angelus, the Rosary, the Before-Meals prayer of my youth. I don’t dislike these prayers; I just have not prayed them.

Benediction is offered daily and includes the Blessed Sacrament; not many parishes offer Benediction today and fewer include the Blessed Sacrament. ( Travis, a self-professed liturgical nerd, told me this. ) It’s been a long time since I attended Benediction, though not as far back as grade school.

At the end of each conference, Fr O led us in a short meditation on the topic of the conference and concluded, “Let us pray for the man in this room who, right now, is struggling the most with … “ the topic of this conference. On the last day, he urged us to, “As you’re packing, pray for the man who, next weekend, is going to have the room you are in.” And, “Pray for the man who, next weekend, is going to be in the chair you are sitting in right now.”

The weekend should be relaxing. All the retreat masters have urged attending to our sleep needs. Fr O said, “If you’re fighting sleep here, now in the conference, stop fighting and take your rest. I’m Irish and I’ll just keep on talking.” He followed that by continuing to talk.

There is plenty of time. Travis told me he needs alone time when on a retreat; seventy-some men, even with the silence, gave him significant pause. I assured him there is both adequate space on the campus and time in the schedule to be alone. The Jesuits realize the retreat happens between conferences, and provide plenty of time for it to happen. There is a nice time between consecutive conferences, more than enough to spend some “away from it all” in one’s room ( which is private ) or walking the many trails on the campus. There are thirty to ninety minutes between a meal and the first group activity afterward.

It’s a marvelous experience for me and opportunity for you.

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