On Retreat

April had been a rough month.  During Holy Week, I came down with flu, and lost my voice.  So I was not able to assist at the Holy Week Services.  Getting over the flu took a lot out of me, physically and spiritually.  So it was probably a good thing that the Archdiocese of Boston annual Deacon retreat took place this weekend.

It was held at the Jesuit Campion Retreat Center, on Weston, MA.  Our retreat director was Brother Paul Feeney, CFX, who is popular with the Diaconate community, both as an educator and Retreat master.

His theme was what we can learn from spiritual master’s Evelyn Underhill, Dutch priest, Henri Nouwen; and how their writings can help us renew our spiritual lives.

It was also an opportunity to recharge my own spiritual life.

Questioning The Sign Again!


Once again, Mother Nature has tried to play an “April Fools!” joke on New England.  This time, the joke was a little, compared to the one we received 20 years ago!

Still, I think they should rewrite the message on this sign to read: “Welcome Spring???”

On Retreat – Weekend Coffee Share

Campion Retreat Center 2

Campion Retreat Center

If we were having a cup of coffee, I would tell you that last weekend I was at a retreat for Permanent Deacons of the Archdiocese of Boston.  It was held at the Campion Retreat Center in Weston, MA.  The Center is managed by the Society of Jesus, better known at the Jesuits.  It is also where their retirement home is located.  Our retreat master was a Xaverian Brother by the name of Paul Feeney.  When many of us were in formation, he taught the Old Testament class.  For this retreat, he looked at the lives and spiritualities of Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton; two American Catholics, whose names were mentioned by Pope Francis during his address to the joint session of Congress.  Dorothy Day, a Catholic social activist, was a co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement.  She practiced every day, the Corporal Works of Mercy, feeding the hungry,

79px-Dorothy_Day_1916

Dorothy Day

comforting those in distress, clothing the naked.  But there was more to it than that, she and her followers strove to change society, to make it a place where it “was easy for people to be good.”  Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk, who wrote a spiritual biography in the 1940’s, that continues inspire people.  He was a prolific writer, and a mystic; combining the two, he produced writings that helped guide many into a deeper spiritual life.  He also wrote on matters of peace and justice, that gave support and spiritual sustenance to many Catholic activists, the late Father Daniel Berrigan, SJ, being one of them.

If we were having a cup of coffee, I would tell you that I had planned on writing about this

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton

sooner.  I packed the old laptop and brought it with me.  Only to find out that Center does not have WiFi available for retreatants.  Just as well, the weekend was suppose to a time of quiet and reflection, a time of sacred reading and prayer.  And I tried to take advantage of the opportunity handed me.  And it was a spiritually refreshing weekend.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that while I was waiting at the main entrance to be picked up, a horse came galloping by, followed by a dismounted horsewoman, and some bicyclists.  There was a horse show going on down the road; I guess this big fellah had other ideas.  Fortunately, they caught him before he could be struck by a car, or run over a retired Jesuit, out for his morning constitutional.

If we were having a cup of coffee, I would tell that no matter how great a spiritual experience of a retreat may have been, life is waiting for you when you leave.  I have a book entitled “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.”  For me, it should read, “After the Ecstasy, Monday morning, the commute, the cubicle!”  The challenge of any retreat experience, is to strive to make what you learn, what you experience, a part of your daily life.  That is something I am still struggling with.

Well, the coffee mug is empty, maybe tomorrow I will bring another steaming mug over.  We will see.

A Wedding Homily

St. Margaret

St. Margaret of Scotland Church

Last Saturday, April 23rd, at St. Margaret of Scotland Church in Beverly; I had the privilege and honor to officiate at the wedding of a very nice couple.  It was my first wedding ceremony as a deacon, and to say I was a little nervous, would be putting it mildly.  So I put everything in the hands of the Lord, and stepped out into the sanctuary and greeted the handsome groom and beautiful bride.  The ceremony was both simple and powerful.  A single violin provided the music; and the old church never looked better.  The following is the homily I delivered, although I did change it a little as I preached:

 

My friends, we are a gathered here today, to witness something awesome!  We have two unique individuals, Jaclyn and Michael, who soon will become one.  They have been brought together by the power of love; they will be joined together by the power of love.  We are to about to witness, we are about to celebrate a sacrament, the sacrament of marriage.  A sacrament, instituted by Jesus Christ, when it is celebrated, reveals and makes present the divine reality they signify, a visible sign of the God’s grace at work within us.  And we will soon witness the grace of the Father’s love at work within Jaclyn and Michael.  And they are going to be changed down to the core of their being by the grace of God, transformed, and forever changed.  They will be a new creation.

It is love, perfected by God’s grace, which binds them together.  And we need to understand that the love I am speaking about not the sentimental love one sees in Hallmark cards.  It is the type of love that St. Paul describes in his letter to the Corinthians. 

“Love is patient, love is kind…It does not seek its own interests.  It is not quick tempered….It bears all things… believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  (1st Cor ). 

This is what love should be for all of us, in all of our relationships, but especially in a marital relationship.  But I will tell you now, after 27 years of being with the love of my life, with all the joys and happiness, there can still be challenges, there can be some struggles, because we can never know what curve balls life will toss at us.  Even the day to day of living together will bring happy surprises, but also some challenges.  But I can also testify to the fact that you will each have some new discoveries about the other; the majority of which will bring joy and happiness in your life, but some that may drive you up the wall.  It is love that will keep you both on an even keel; it is love that will see you both through.  It is love that will keep the joy alive for both of you.  And as St. Paul says, “Love never fails.”

For love to work though, our hearts, our souls, must be continually open to its source; open to God’s grace through Jesus Christ the Son.  Jesus Christ, who is the prime example of what it means to love, who emptied Himself for love of us all.  We encounter Him in Word and Sacrament , we encounter Him in quiet moments.  And in that encounter, we are refreshed.

It is appropriate that we celebrate this wedding here in this church, named for St. Margaret of Scotland.  She is one of our rare laywoman saints.  She is an example of what a Catholic marriage is all about.  Born in England, she would become Queen of Scotland, after marrying King Malcolm III of Scotland in 1070.  It is said that they had a very affectionate relationship, which was rare for royal marriages of those times.  Together, they had eight children.  She is said to have had a civilizing effect on the Scottish court.  She had a strong spiritual life, and she was known charitable works, supported by her husband.  A true marriage is life enriching for both husband and wife.  And a true Catholic marriage is life giving, by having children, or reaching out to others in need. 

The wonder, the joy of the love of God is made manifest in many ways.  One of them is by this sacrament we are about to celebrate, in what this couple is about to celebrate.  Let us join together, praying for Jaclyn and Michael, for their joy and happiness.  And let us witness something awesome!