This week I will be away on my annual spiritual retreat. This is an obligation required of all priests by Canon Law. I must say however I have always found it a pleasant obligation.
When I first began my priestly formation way back in 1965 at the old Saint Pius X Preparatory Seminary in Uniondale the word “retreat” was pretty much a purely religious (and military) term. Now we hear of corporations and organizations of all sorts taking their employees on “retreats”.
For us priests, it is a time to leave our everyday parochial responsibilities behind for about a week. It is a time to follow the advice of the Lord “come apart by yourselves and rest awhile” and “watch and pray.”
Prayer, rest, reflection, and resolution are the traditional parts of a priestly retreat. Some are what are known as “directed”; that is conducted by a “retreat master” and others are “private” (alone and self-guided).
For me, the last several have been of the latter type.
I go away just far enough to feel a true psychological distance from my normal environment. Traditionally some have sought out the solitude of the desert. True to the instincts of my ethnic background (Celtic and Scandinavian) the sea is my “desert” and I spend the week in a place where the land and sea intersect.
I take my “old friends”: favorite spiritual and theological books, with some variants thrown in for perhaps fresh insight; I immerse myself the Sacred Liturgy: the Divine Office and the Mass. The season of the year, redolent of Saints and Faithful Departed, puts me in mind of that vast Kingdom of Christ of which Saint Matthew’s Parish is but a small part.
Also, the flesh has its respite too, with an early bedtime and an early rising.
I don’t claim to come back a “new man”; but perhaps just a better man and a better priest.
I’ll be praying for you; please spare a thought for me.
November 10th, 2013