Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Retreat: [ri-treet] The act of withdrawing, as into safety or privacy ... and into prayer!

Last week was one I really looked forward to: the annual retreat of the Diocese of Trenton seminarians. Given that we study in four different seminaries, this five-day gathering of more than thirty men aspiring to the priesthood becomes a great opportunity to catch up with each other’s lives, parish assignments, and generally chat about why we are on this journey. There was a comfortable feel to the retreat this year as I was no longer one of “the new guys.” That was driven home in a strange sort of way when I got to my room, and turning on my iPad to see if I could get to my e-mail, found that I was already connected to the wireless network; I had been here before, and was connected – in more ways than with a tablet!

For these few days, our paths intersect and merge, with the focal point of that intersection at Stella Maris Retreat Center in Long Branch. Others who were just starting with me last year spoke about returning to their seminaries early to help with this year’s “new student orientation” programs; like me, they were no longer the object of the orientation but had quickly emerged into roles of participating and leading within their various seminaries.

The bike rides that some of us took were really not about riding a bike or exercise … they were about talking among friends who were on a journey much bigger than the couple of miles we might pedal that afternoon.

For most of the men, this retreat fell at the point where their formal summer assignments were completed, and they had a few weeks to visit with family and friends before returning to their dorm rooms in late August. For myself, the retreat was but a momentary pause, as I will continue in my pastoral year assignment for the next ten months here at Saint Robert Bellarmine parish. A particular joy in this year is the level of involvement within my parish, possible because I am here for a longer period; I am given the chance by my pastor to be not an observer, but a participant in the daily life of a busy parish.

I seem to have a foot in two camps as well; since I am ministering full-time in a parish, albeit not yet a priest, my life has taken on the rhythm of rectory living and parish schedules. Along with my classmates who also just graduated and were ordained, we are adjusting to that rhythm: what does it mean to have your day off in the middle of the week when many of your family and friends are working? How do you find a time when six priest friends can get together? Who has Mass on Saturday? Who has Sunday night? Who has hospital duty on which day? We had a quorum for dinner a week or so ago on a Sunday evening, which I helped set up, only to realize that I had the 5 PM Mass that day; it really helps to look at the correct calendar!

Please keep me, our recently ordained priests, and all seminarians in your prayers; each of us will be adjusting to the chronos time and calendars in our parishes and schools, but at the same time need to remember that kairos time is spent with God. To quote my “friend,” Karl Rahner, whose book on prayer I re-read during retreat, life is filled with temptation and decisions; each moment – kairos – is an invitation to divine love, and our response is a life of prayer. May each of you experience lives of prayer each day.