I'm always telling people to go on retreat or to find a good spiritual director. But I know finding a good retreat or to discovering a good spiritual director is easier said than done. I almost would rather not go on a retreat than attend one that makes me angry or feels like a complete waste of time. I don't need counseling for my inner child or art class, I need to be challenged and enlightened in my faith.
That is why I like going to Trinity retreat house so much. Unfortunately it is for priests only or I would recommend you all going there. It is run by the Diocese of New York and has a couple of outstanding priests as retreat masters; Fr. Gene Fulton and the inestimable Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR. These retreats are nectar for the soul and recharge me for my ministry.
This is Trinity Retreat Center.
From the road it is a somewhat unassuming place. There is no great sign or tar parking lot. In this quiet spot each morning I would wake up and pray the Office of Readings before starting the retreat day.
They day began with meeting all of the other priests in the refectory for breakfast. Soon the last of the coffee is finished and the dishes taken away and we head for the chapel for Morning Prayer and the first conference.
After the conference there is a short break. Sometimes I would write, work on homilies, take photos or just walk about.
Mass comes next. We would meet in the room you see below and vest. I was chosen as choir master and so would pick a song and we would sing and head in to the chapel through the door to the right of the fireplace. It is a very modest but serviceable chapel. The youngest person according to ordination is celebrant for the mass working up the ladder each day (I never seem to make the cut) though Fr. Groeschell or Fr. Fulton would give the homily, which was the length of another conference.
Lunch came next naturally. Afterwords Fr. B. and I would pray Daytime Prayer and then take a constitutional around town, walking for several miles, stopping at St. Augustin Church to pray and light candles and then heading off to the business district to have a cup of coffee and exchange thoughts on what had been talked about that day. Others stayed about the house and read as you see below. Contrary to popular belief, this is not Fr. Schnippel.
Though I always had great intentions, I always seemed to fall into napsio divina after the long walk. But upon coming out of my deep closed-eyes-prayer I'd take up reading. Among other things I finally got around to reading Pope Benedict's Spe Salvi. Fr. Benedict said, "Wear good shoes. It's a long walk through that document." And it was. But it was worth it. Wow.
Below is a view of the sound from out my window. About ten swans seemed to meet there every morning to decide where they were going to be stationed that day I guess.
All gathered in the chapel again for Evening Prayer and another conference as smells of dinner drifted into the chapel from the refectory. It is always enjoyable discussing priesthood with priests from other dioceses. New ideas are uncovered and of course ecclesial gossip is shared.
Below is the bridge that crosses the sound leading to Trinity.
This guy was at the edge of the bridge - a show off begging to have his picture taken.
The hour or so after dinner was always an opportunity to go to confession or have a private meeting with Fr. Benedict or continue your prayers or reading. Below is one of the nearby parks that one could walk to on a constitutional to think and pray.
Then there was Holy Hour at which we would also pray Night Prayer and have another conference. The celebrant for Holy Hour is generally someone who does not get to be celebrant for mass and for this I qualified. It was a great honor - and being that I am not allowed to use incense at St. Clare anymore it was a pleasure that it was de rigour here.
Below are the offices, bookstore, and Fr. Groeschell's room in an outbuilding on the grounds.
the singing of the Salve Regina we retired to the refectory
one last time to talk about the day over wine and cheese. It was in this setting that I snapped this candid shot of Fr. Benedict.
year I make sure that we always take at least one turn around this house. I wish I could run into the people who own it and they volunteer to give me a tour. It is quite an magical building and ignites the imagination. Here is one of my favorite details located just off of the courtyard. It is a carolon
. Notice there are almost two full octaves of bells. I hope they play them from time to time!T
his if Fr. B and I down by the sound. I must admit that we did not socialize too much at night during the wine and cheese sessions. Instead we engaged in a bloody, knock down, drag out, life and death game of Scrabble.
It was funny, but at the end of the day it did not seem I could get done all that I intended to do. The day was more packed than the schedule seems to indicate. But I came back refreshed and eager to share the insights that were given to me by these holy men, in particular Fr. Groeschell. What did we hear and pray about? Oh, if you read this blog or come to my masses you'll absorb much of what I did. I
encourage you if you are a priest to go on retreat! It's not about you, it's about the people you serve. Encourage your priests
to be loyal to their retreats. As it is imperative that our teachers who take care of our kids take refresher courses, as medical personnel
who take care of our bodies need
to keep updating their knowledge, as even boiler workers must take classes from time to time to keep their licenses, so priests, who are charged with caring for souls, need to do have their own batteries charged!