Thursday, October 4, 2012

On Priests Retreat, On Slowing Down

This week I have been on the Diocesan Priests’ Retreat with our Bishop and most of the Priests of the Diocese.

What exactly do Priests do on retreat? It will be no surprise that we pray, for that is what one does on a retreat. We pray Morning and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. We have Mass together. We have a Reconciliation Service with time for individual Confessions afterward. In the beauty of our retreat center at Marywood in South Jacksonville on the St. John's River, one can be still and pray alone, as well.

St. John's River as seen from Marywood dock
 Every Priests Retreat has a Retreat Director. For the last 8 years I have been the Chair of the Priests’ Spirituality Committee and responsible for arranging the Retreat and selecting the Director. It was a 5 year appointment made by Bishop Galeone and when I hit the 6th  and 7th years, I asked Bishop Galeone to replace me but it never happed. Finally, after the 8th year, our new Bishop Felipe had mercy and appointed a new Chair. I’m still helping with the Liturgy on Retreat, my constant love.

Our Retreat Director this year, Fr. George Aschenbrenner, SJ, is the last Director I selected. One usually schedules Priests’ Retreat Directors at least 3 years in advance. Whoever our Director may be, he or she always gives us spiritual food for thought, meditation, and encouragement.

There is also a lot of comraderie on the Priests’ Retreat. This is the one sure time that most of the Priests of the Diocese are together. We are on the whole a happy group and enjoy conversation and jokes and relaxing together. Here is a photo of the Priests' Retreat in 2008:
Can you spot your Pastor? For some reason he has a coat hanger
So on Retreat we Priests pray and listen to spiritual conferences, and socialize. But I would say the essential thing about a retreat is to slow down for a while. We live in very busy times. Priests also are busy with many duties, especially so in larger parishes like ours at Holy Faith.

We Priests need to remember how important it is to listen to God and that means stopping for a while and paying attention. Listening occurs in silence and we may find silence difficult in our noisy times. Quiet time is built into our retreats, so as to listen.

Here is a poem I came across as I prepared to write this entry; it speaks to me of this need to slow down and hear God.The poet has two allusions to the Scriptures: one on the Hidden Treasure in the Field and the Pearl of Great Price (see Matthew 13:44-46 HERE); and Moses and the Burning Bush (See Exodus 3:1-22 HERE):

The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

~ R. S. Thomas ~

The poet thinks back on a lovely scene of the sun illuminating a field. He seems to say that he hurried away when he needed to stop and turn aside and realize the treasure of God's revelation in that place of nature.

The poet mentions the example of Moses who turned aside to see the Burning Bush. It was in this amazing Bush that burned but was not consumed that Moses heard God speak. Moses took off his shoes and worshiped. But what if Moses had not stopped. What if he was rushing on to the next appointment and had no time to see this amazing thing and hear God speak? If he lived today, he’d probably be like most of us, so distracted that he wouldn’t even have noticed that burning bush by the way; it would have had to burn him to get his attention! And sometimes it’s only in crises that we are forced to slow down and consider what is the Great Treasure/Pearl of Great Price in our lives. Jesus says it is the Kingdom of God, which means the Rule of God’s love in our lives.

It’s difficult to slow down when life is busy. Daily Prayer helps. And Retreats...

(And just so you know that I’m not working while on Retreat, this entry was written the day before our Retreat began. I only had to push a button to publish it today.)

For a related post go  Here "Seeing God in the Ordinary" (7/5/2012)