The Season for Retreats

April 3-9, 2003
The Season for Retreats
By Kristen Fox / SUN staff writer
Parishioners take time out to deepen relationships with Christ during Lent

Lent is the perfect time to break away from busy schedules and take time to deepen connections with Christ. A retreat, be it for a couple of hours, or a series of nighttime events, is for many people an excellent way to get closer to Christ.

“People are looking for ways to enrich themselves spiritually and Lent is a good time for reflection and self-examination,” stated Father Joseph Neville, S.J., spiritual director and retreat leader for the Jesuit Community at Le Moyne College. “Retreats are an opportunity to find God by getting in touch with yourself, your relationship with others and with creation.”

A number of retreats were held throughout the diocese in recent weeks. Father Neville led a retreat at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Liverpool from March 30 through April 2. Over the four nights, he emphasized the tremendous love Christ has for each person. Father Neville tried to share with those in attendance what Jesus was like. He said that many people have an idea of Jesus. It is terribly important to know the tremendous sacrifice Jesus made for us them so that they may be saved. Topics of discussion and reflection included Jesus’ Identity, Forgiveness, and Blessing of Senses.

There was also a special Anointing of the Sick ceremony held on March 30, marking the beginning of the retreat. The ceremony was an opportunity for those who are spiritually, mentally or physically ill to be blessed. This part of the retreat, noted Father Neville, carried on the Jesus’ mission of healing the sick. Just as Jesus came to heal, the anointing brought comfort to those who are suffering, said Father Neville. Father Neville believes that retreats are important all of the time and, while certainly necessary during the Lenten season, should not be limited to once a year. Many people are often too busy to stop and reflect on God’s presence in their lives, but taking time out for God should be a priority.

“We need to take time out –– not just during the Lenten season –– to reflect on how much God loves us,” said Father Neville. “His presence is a powerful force in our lives and we need to be aware of it.” Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Vestal also held a retreat from March 23- 26, led by Father Lawrence J. Madden, S.J., from the Georgetown Center for Liturgy. Father Madden, who has gone across the country giving parish retreats, focused on deepening one’s ability to enter into liturgy. When there is an active conscious participation at Mass he said there is a greater connection to Christ.

“Too many people simply sit through Mass, going through the motions, but not really getting anything out the experience,” said Father Madden. “As Catholics, we have a responsibility to respond more deeply to the symbols of the liturgy.” For some people, Sunday Mass is the only time they take to experience Christ. Father Madden said that Catholics, by virtue of their Baptism, have an obligation to not only attend liturgy, but focus on the marvelous experience that is taking place. He noted that over the years, some lay people have stopped seeing Mass as a prayer, but rather have come to depend on clergy to walk them through the motions. Father Madden during the retreat stated there has to be a recovery of the liturgy as a prayer service by lay people which involves a deeper understanding and concentration on the powerful experience that is taking place.

Father Madden recommends that all Catholics find time to experience the power of a retreat. He said that it would be hard to walk away from one without a renewed sense of spirituality. “Retreats facilitate a closer relationship with Christ,” said Father Madden. “They dismiss us out into the world with a stronger desire to transform the world.”

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