This retreat was held at St. Therese Retreat Center, which is administered by the Diocese of Columbus. I’ve been to several retreats there, and it’s always comfortable and welcoming, and about five minutes from my house, which is a plus. Another plus is that the priest giving the retreat is also a priest at my parish, so I knew it would be good preaching.
The theme for the retreat was “The Virtues of Mary”, but that covered a lot of not-so-obvious applications, as you’ll see.
This was a silent retreat, but that doesn’t mean from the start. Silence started after dinner. I had some lovely ladies at my table and I enjoyed talking to them. We had a mix–one girl had just graduated from Notre Dame and is getting married in April; another was an African immigrant (not sure which country), and she wore fabulous outfits; two other ladies were from my parish, and one was a grandmother. We were quite a mixed group at our table!
This retreat was a little different than in the past. Normally, there’d be a retreat conference given the first night, but Fr. C used his homily at Mass as sort of a mini conference, which I found really useful. He did this throughout the retreat, so everything was consistently woven together, instead of the Mass homilies being one thing, and the conferences another.
(Retreat lingo: conference is a talk, normally about 45 minutes to an hour, on the retreat topic du jour.)
- We need to constantly open our hearts to the words God is speaking to us.
- Mary brings graces to us–grace as a human face, not something that we can’t see.
- Grace moves, touches, embraces us.
- Hospitality means that we receive the things that are sent to us well, in a sense of generosity of spirit. We have to be humble and surrender to what we are sent. This does NOT mean crazy spring cleaning (here Father told us about spring cleaning in his house as a kid); it means the opposite. We should decrease activity, and decrease busy-ness. We should still our hearts.
- Don’t allow yourself to be frustrated: just let it happen. It’s about God’s actions, not yours.
- God does what He says He will Do.
- Father asked us to consider what we want, what we desire. What do we need to ask God for?
- “Hope is the only theological virtue that pertains to you.” Faith is outwardly directed (faith in God), and charity (love) is the same way. But hope is what we do to/for ourselves. It’s self-directed.
- We struggle to obtain holiness, happiness, joy, but by surrendering to God, we receive the knowledge of Him. When we open our hearts to the Lord, we can transform our lives and remove the baggage that’s there. Allow God to form our hearts to desire Him, and our happiness and our holiness.
These are things I think we all need to remember on a daily (if not hourly) basis. Fr. C touched on some very important things here, things that we often forget. He asked us to ask God how He wants us to transform our lives, and focus on what He wants to give us.
After Mass we had vespers, and after that, I went to bed. I usually don’t go to confession the first night, because I like to use that time to sort of get into the retreat spirit and think about what the priest has presented to us already.
8:15 Lauds in the chapel
9:15 Conference #1
10:30 Rosary in chapel
I was, amazingly, up at 7 AM. My room was close to the chapel and the bells rang at seven, which was a nice way to wake up. So I got dressed and had some time in the chapel before the tabernacle before we prayed lauds. I had found a lovely prayer card with a quote from St. Catherine Laboure in my Bible:
Whenever I go to the chapel, I put myself in the presence of our good Lord, and I say to Him, “Lord, I am here. Tell me what you would have me to do.” If He gives me some task, I am content and I think Him. If He gives me nothing, I still thank Him since I do not deserve to receive anything more than that. And then, I tell God everything that is in my heart. I tell Him about my pains and my joys, and then I listen. If you listen, God will also speak to you, for with the good Lord, you have to both speak and listen. God always speaks to you when you approach Him simply and plainly.
So I took St. Catherine’s advice. It went well. (Maybe more on that later!)
Fr. C’s first conference covered a lot of ground. Notes:
- We want to know Mary better and understand who she is. No one is more beautiful in creation than Mary.
- What is virtue? A good quality of mind by which one lives righteously, of which no one can make bad use.
- We can’t love what we don’t know. We have to know God to love Him.
- Virtue speaks to our dignity and witness. It just works. The more you practice it, the easier it gets.
- Letting go defines love.
- Mary is the image of human perfection: she’s what we should imitate, because she’s the perfect example of what God wants us to be.
- Virtue speaks of happiness. “Blessed”=”happy” in translation. It’s the same word. So “Blessed art thou”=”happy art thou.”
- God wants us to flourish and be happy! He wants us to have the fullness of life.
- Fr. C the segued into a point about freedom. God gives us freedom, but there are two kinds: Freedom of indifference: our ability to choose, and freedom for excellence: freedom is in the intellect, for flourishing.
- When God speaks of freedom, He speaks of what is real. Freedom is the pursuit of happiness, but happiness at the level of flourishing.
- God has created us with a purpose. He’s painting a picture of our lives, and we have to surrender to that.
- Grace speaks of elegant movement. It’s not just a gift we get, it’s how God animates you.
- Contrast of Mary and Eve
- Imagination: Dreaming too much that we forget what is real (i.e., reading too many romance novels.)
- Shopping: thinking that things will make us happy.
- Emotions: emotions are good but we have to control them, channel them to be effective.
- Fr. C told us he’d taken dancing lessons as a kid (“I went because there were girls”; in the South, this is a thing, apparently.), and so God is our dancing partner. We don’t want to step all over Him.
At Mass, we celebrated Sts. Felicity and Perpetua, early martyrs who died in 203 AD. Father reminded us that the saints are our heroes, and we should want to imitate them. They inspire us, teach us how to be more like God. God gives us the means to live out the life He has planned for us.