This last Tuesday I went on a 24-hour crash course retreat at Prince of Peace Abbey, by invitation of Brother Mario, with the intent to submit to the call of my heavenly father, and to in some way come to know what Mary's perspective was in submitting to the Lord's call by way of the angel Gabriel (Luke1:38). Moreover, I had hoped to gain a better perspective of Joseph's responsibility as a father, who dealt with challenges from the moment of Mary's conception. At my arrival to Prince of Peace Abbey, I sensed this was not going to be familiar experience (photos).
The walk to my room was a little mysterious, as I entered the cool unadorned walkway. As I spent some time looking for my room, my anticipation grew, as I could feel myself wondering what the Lord had in store. Setting my things down, which was in a modest space of double beds, one desk, closet, crucifix, picture, phone and fan, I was steeped in silence. There was an immediate letting go of pager, cell, computer, fax, back-up software, T.V., radio, Plaxo, Linkedin, Twitter, Plurk, possessions, etc., etc., etc. No longer would I be connected to the world's plan for this 24 hours, but hopefully to my Lord's. My room had a view of the main entrance to the church. Its sanctuary called me during the times of prayer for the next 24. Never had I been so drawn to mediate and experience Vigil (5:30 a.m.), Lauds (7:00 a.m.), Holy Mass (11:00 a.m.), Vespers (5:00 p.m.) and Compline (8:00 p.m.). The rhythm of prayer, the song of the brothers, seemed so natural and necessary, but I hadn't known this before. At the ringing of the bells at 11:00 a.m., I embraced the experience, as I had done entering my grandmother's and grandfather's home when I was a young boy. I felt calm, secure and knew there was peace here, and it was a place to discover and grow.
During the day, I spent much time in the library, exploring the history of the Catholic church in America, anthropology, and the topic of morality and the Catholic church of the 70s. I came away more convinced than ever, of the need for our young people to be well versed in their own faith, for it was even more obvious that throughout history, the foundation set by parents and leaders is that which sustains or diminishes the faithful vitality of subsequent generations, and will either make more firm or precarious the salvation of their souls.
When not in the library, I took (photographs) and meandered about, listening to my mind, heart, soul and talked with God, and at times just felt the presence of his grandeur to my frail stature. The most potent experience for me was on the Prayer Walk, where there are fourteen stations of the cross. The stations of the cross seemed to me in similar manner what I might call the Stations of Fatherhood. At each station, I could see some parallel that fathers experience throughout life, where we at times may feel belabored and alone. And, during our walk, we may feel the relief of help at times, all the while knowing we have a destination and that our families depend on us to complete the task set before us, with the hope that in the end, not only will we rise to eternal life, but those we love will as well because of the example we set. This walk is where I was captivated by my Lord, both by embracing partially (due to my finite mind) the meaning of his sacrifice and God's love, but also by realizing the importance of my own sacrifice and love for the faith formation of my children, family and community.
That 24-hours was more intense than I had anticipated, and it left me renewed and committed to my Lord's work. During this period, I met with Brother Daniel to discuss becoming an Oblate in The Order of Saint Benedict and have since picked up a copy of The Rule of Saint Benedict. In all my experiences in the Catholic faith, this one 24-hour period seemed to solidify the vague teachings I had as a child. In this 24-hour period I was captivated by my Lord, and became wonderfully fearful of what he will reveal. Now, I believe in some small part I know what both Mary and Joseph experienced. Now, I can only pray for the Lord's grace to submit to his will and follow where he leads.
The Rule of Saint Benedict (An Image Book Original)