Friday, November 4, 2011

Going on a Retreat

Dear Parishioners,
According to the Code of Canon Law (church law), priests are bound to make time for spiritual retreats (canon 276 §2, 4).
On many occasions, I choose to join the Trappist Monks—the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.)—for a week of prayer, spiritual reading and silence in Piffard, NY.  I stay at Bethlehem Retreat House which is part of the Abbey of Our Lady of the Genesee.  (If you care to, you can read about my retreat last year at the abbey here.)
We hear in Sacred Scripture about Jesus going out into the desert, going up on the mountain, going by the seashore and to other locations to take the time to be alone and to pray.  I think that we all need this time.  Not everyone has the ability to take a week off specifically to do this, but it is a practice which we all need to consider. We should take at least some time regularly for our own spiritual growth and well-being.  A retreat is certainly a possibility to help us.

Retreats can vary in kind, duration and austerity.  The monastic retreat that I choose is meant to be a desert experience.  It involves great periods of silence, praying (chanting) the psalms at least five times a day, celebrating Mass with the monks, some spiritual conferences, a considerable amount of walking to and from the abbey and early rising—very early!  The first time of prayer at Genesee is 2:25 AM!  Early to bed, for sure.

In the midst of this experience I hope to encounter God more profoundly.  Minimize the distractions, eliminate noise, pray more and be open and attentive to the presence of God in my life.  By doing this I am preparing myself—setting the conditions—to "hear" God more clearly.
Every past retreat has borne different kinds of fruit for my life’s journey.  God never seems to be without wonder and surprise as He speaks to the depth of the heart.

While on retreat I will be praying for you, my people.  I will place all of you at the top of my list of prayer intentions as I celebrate Mass, chant the psalms and partake in various spiritual exercises.

Could I ask that you remember me as well in your thoughts, prayers and Masses?  After all, I truly depend on your prayers, support and love to sustain me in my priestly ministry!

Genesee is an abbey where the monks bake bread (Monk’s Bread) and sell it to support themselves.  I hope that I can keep away from eating too many carbs during the week!

Unfortunately, I doubt it will happen!

Fr. Ed Namiotka              

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