Retreats: The Silence of Our Hearts

The Catholic faith has a long tradition of offering retreats to clergy, religious, and lay members of the Church. Just as Jesus retreated in the desert for 40 days before beginning his public ministry, we often go on retreats to regain focus, jump-start our prayer life, or seek comfort following a hardship.

 

There are many different kinds of retreats: solitary or group retreats, thematic retreats, self-guided or directed retreats, single sex or co-ed retreats, day retreats, weekend retreats, etc. No matter what type it is, it’s a time to focus solely on our relationship with God. It often involves prayer, quiet reflection, meditation, reading spiritual books, Mass, and Eucharistic Adoration.

 

Could you take an afternoon or a weekend to separate yourself from the everyday hustle and bustle and just be with God? You might be thinking, “Sounds great, but I’m too busy.” At a retreat I went on a few years ago, I remember our director saying, “If you’re too busy to come on a retreat…you’re too busy, period.” That stuck with me.

 

When we talk about priorities, I’m reminded of the oft-quoted line: Don’t let the urgent get in the way of the important. With only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week, sometimes spending time with our Creator doesn’t make the cut. But if making a retreat is important to you, set it at the top of your priority list.

 

The Easter Season is a wonderful, joyous, Spirit-filled time to go on a retreat. A simple Google search will bring up many Catholic retreat houses and the Archdiocese of Washington’s Catholic Standard also lists some upcoming retreats. If you’re a member of a parish, check the weekly bulletin or ask your pastor for recommendation.    

 

I leave you with this quote from Mother Teresa’s No Greater Love.

 

Silence of our eyes.

Silence of our ears.

Silence of our mouths.

Silence of our minds.

…in the silence of the heart

God will speak.

 

 

Shameless Plug: The Office of Young Adult Ministry will be offering a Half-Day Retreat for Married Young Adults on May 16th 2009. For more information, click here.

Making Holy Week Holy–Preparing Your Heart

A clean heart create for me, God: renew in me a steadfast spirit.”

 

Taken from Psalm 51, it is the prayer of repentance and sets the tone for our entry into the celebration of the Triduum(the three day celebration of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil). It is a reminder that God’s grace is like a river of cleansing water. It is not too late to receive the grace of forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation. Your local parish probably has special times posted. The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is offering the sacrament from 10:00 a.m-6:00 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday with four priests available. See www.nationalshrine.com. The Franciscan Friars have confessions on the hour between 9:00 and 4:00 p.m. See www.myfranciscan.org.

 

Another practice of the heart is to calculate how much money you saved if you “gave up” something for Lent. In my case that daily cappuccino adds up to about $135.00. That makes a very nice contribution to my favorite charity or the poor box at church. I read something very interesting today. The fast of the Triduum is not so much the fast of a penitent but rather the fast of anticipation—of looking forward and readying ourselves for the celebration of Easter. It made me ask myself what should change in how I fast the next couple of days. What does an anticipation fast look like?  If God is promising a steadfast spirit, what might a steadfast spirit look like for me?

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A special tradition follows the celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday. It is a period of adoration inviting people to do what the disciples who were with Jesus in the garden could not do—to stay and pray with him. Can we be different and pray with our Lord? Most churches will be open until 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. Why not plan to stay? There was a practice a generation or so ago to visit seven churches on Holy Thursday evening. Why not choose two or three near you to visit?                                     

 

This blog began as part of our campaign to extend invitations to people we know who have been away from the Church to come back to Mass. If you’ve been meaning to ask someone, why not consider inviting that person to one our Holy Week services.

 

“Restore my joy in your salvation; sustain in me a willing spirit.”

 

 

 

Soul-Wow Now!

Have you been to confession yet? No Lent is complete without the “Soul-Wow” power of  this mighty sacrament. Don’t get caught at Easter without it. It’s on sale now at every Catholic parish for the amazing price of $0.00

40 Reasons for Coming Home – Reason # 32 – 100 % Performance Record

Reason # 32 – 100% Performance Record. There are very few certainties in this world about anything but one thing is for sure: The Church will prevail, the Church will be here to infallibly lead us to the end of days. “How arrogant!” you might say. And yet,  say it I did. Why? Not because of any human guarantee, but based rather on the firm promise of Jesus himself.

The place is Ceasarea Phillipi and Jesus is speaking to Simon Peter who had just confessed him to be the Christ and the Son of  the Living God. Now Jesus speaks and says, You are Peter (Rock), and upon this rock I will build my church,and the gates of hell  shall not prevail against it.  (Matt 16:18) The Church will surely be hated, attacked and persecuted but Hell will never prevail, never defeat the Church Jesus founded.  Now I want to emphasize that this power of the Church to endure to the end is no human power. It is not based on brilliant or perfect human leaders. It is based solely on Jesus’  promise. So it is not arrogant to make this claim, it is simply biblical and a matter of faith in Jesus.

This prevailing power of the Church can be understood in a couple of ways. First it means that the Church will be here to the end.  Count on it since Jesus promised it. This is what is meant by the “indefectability” of Church. Secondly, this promise means that the Church cannot mislead us or teachly falsely in a matter of faith and morals.

In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility…The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms: “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium, above all in an Ecumenical Council. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 889-891)

Now some object to claim. But reason with me for a minute. Jesus promised that the gates of Hell could not prevail against the Church. But if the Church could formally teach error about faith and morals, if the Church could mislead people about what was necessary for their eternal salvation, then it would be a fact that the gates of Hell HAD prevailed. But since Jesus promised it could never happen, then, by God’s grace, the Church is protected from formally teaching falsely on matters of faith and morals. Do you trust Jesus and believe his word? Then the Church is unsinkable and infallible regarding faith and morals.

So why is this a reason to come home? Well, let’s say you have a choice to take one of two airplanes to take to a distant city, lets call it “Heavenly City.” The one plane (Church Airlines) gets there 100% of the time. The other plane (Alsoran Airlines) gets there sometimes, but other times it is in disrepair, or  it lands in the wrong city, or at still other times it crashes. OK, which plane are you going to take? Now I am not going to tell you that only Church Airline riders  get to Heavenly City. A few people on the other plane do sometimes get there, but its a pretty uncertain ride. At least with Church Airlines the plane is certain to get there: it won’t crash, get lost or fail to take off. So, choose this airline! The world might not get you there, untested spiritualities and the latest trends won’t cut it. Only Jesus and the Catholic Church he founded are up to the job 100% of the time. Now be careful though. You have to stay on the plane for the whole journey. Don’t get off at a connecting city (Sin City) or  any such thing. The plane is 100% reliable by Jesus own promise.  It’s a pretty good reason to come home and get on board before the door cloese and walkway swings back. There is a mid-flight meal, the Eucharist, and an in-flight movie, the Word of God included in the price of your ticket which is, by the way, free.

Now this video is about the Gospel Train not a plane but the thought is still the same: “Then Get on Board, Children, there’s room for many a more!”

The Wisdom of the Cross

It  is Holy Week and we ponder the many gifts we have received from the Cross that Christ carried for us. The Cross was terrible and difficult but the gain was enormous. So too for the crosses we carry. Think of one thing in your life that you truly value and ponder the sacrifices that were neecessary so that you could enjoy it. Maybe it is your children; think of all the scarifices you made so that they could come to where they are today. Maybe it is your career, think of all the years of college and training that went into this blessing. Whatever it is, nothing of value comes without the cross. Where would you be today without your crosses?

This is the wisdom of the cross. Difficult and painful though it may be it always brings blessings if we carry it with faith. The following video is a little “homespun” but it illustrates well the wisdom of the cross.

Mary – The Ark of the New Covenant

There is a teaching presented in the New Testament that Mary is the Ark of the (new) Covenant. Recall what the Ark of Covenant was in the Old Testament. It was a box of Acacia wood, covered  in gold. (See photo at right of a replica).  Inside it were placed: the two tablets on which God inscribed the Ten Commandments. Also in it was the staff of Aaron, and a vile of the Manna. More importantly, in this box, this ark, dwelt the very Presence of God in Israel. God mysteriously dwelt within, much as is the case today in our understanding of the tabernacle in our Catholic Churches. Incredibly however the Ark was lost when the Babylonians destroyed the temple and Jerusalem in 587 BC. It was never found again. Or was it? There is a scene in the New Testament, the Book of Revelation where it is rediscovered:

Rev 11:19ff Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.

Note that the Ark is seen. It has been found! John then seems to say nothing more of it. Or does he? He goes on to describe a beautiful woman who gives birth to a child who can be non other than Jesus. Thus the woman is Mary. A compelling case can be made that John has not shifted his attention away from the Ark of the Covenant but is in fact still describing it when he describes Mary. It makes sense that Mary would be described as the Ark of Covenant for she, like the Ark of old carries the very presence of God (Jesus) in her womb. She carries the presence of God in Israel every bit as much as did the ancient Ark. In fact she does so even more perfectly.

If this were the only place in the New Testament where Mary is described in this way, the whole interpretation might be dismissed as fanciful. Nevertheless Luke also describes Mary in this way (see next page) which helps give reinforcement to the idea that John here also intends for us to link Mary with the Ark of the Covenant.

St. Luke presents the tradition that Mary is the Ark of the Covenant by presenting a series of parallelisms. In other words he takes what was said of the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament and re-presents it but as applied to Mary. Observe the two texts in parallel columns below: (Note especially the bold texts)
 

 

 

(2 Sam 6:1-20) David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. {2} And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baalejudah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim. {3} And they carried the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart {4} with the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark. {5} And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. {6} And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. {7} And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there because he put forth his hand to the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God. {8} And David was angry because the LORD had broken forth upon Uzzah; and that place is called Perezuzzah, to this day. {9} And David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” {10} So David was not willing to take the ark of the LORD into the city of David; but David took it aside to the house of Obededom the Gittite. {11} And the ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months; and the LORD blessed Obededom and all his household. {12} And it was told King David, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obededom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom to the city of David with rejoicing; {13} and when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. {14} And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. {15} So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the horn…

 

 (Luke 1:39-47,56) In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, {40} and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. {41} And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit {42} and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! {43} And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? {44} For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. {45} And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” {46} And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, {47} and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home.

 

 

 Note the following similarities between the Ancient Ark of the Covenant and Mary’s Visit:

  1. David Arose and went…Mary arose and went
  2. David went from Baal up to Judah…Mary went from Nazareth up to the Hill country of Judah
  3. David says How can the Ark of the Lord come to me…Elizabeth says Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?
  4. David Dances before the ark…John the Baptist leaps (dances) for Joy in the womb of his mother.
  5. The text in 2 Sam 6 describe the cries of the people which accompany the ark…Luke describes the cry of Elizabeth for Joy.

All these similarities paint of picture. Luke wants us to recall a story of the Ancient Ark of the Covenant now retold in the context of a visit of Mary, the Mother of God. What the Ark of the Covenant was in the Old Testament (that which carried the presence of God in Israel) Mary is now in the New Covenant. The teaching is inescapable. Luke and the Holy Spirit want us to understand that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. The Ark has been found an it is Mother Mary. Note too an important contrast. When David brought the Ark up to Jerusalem there was great fear mixed in with the joy. In the new story however as Mary carries Jesus in her womb, mercy is front and center and there is only joy.

Conversations on Atheism

Posted Comment: “Many young people I know are practical atheists, God and the Church aren’t even on their radar.”

 

Practical atheists? Yes. Not on their radar? I disagree. I think that God and the Church are very much on young people’s radar. The problem is that there are so few opportunities to actually discuss God and the Church in our society which continues to become more secular.

 

Most young people are at least aware that there may be a God and are also aware that the Church has much to say about the fact that there may be a God. Not only that, but our everyday lives remind us of this possibility. Birth, death, sadness, sexuality, science, love, loneliness…all these experiences are opportunities for us to explore the possibility of God and the viewpoint of the Church. Sadly, we often push through that sense of inquiry because it’s not effective and won’t help us pay the rent.

 

Do you want to explore the questions you have about God and the Church? The Office of Young Adult Ministry will be hosting three Conversations at Busboys and Poets at 14th and V Streets NW in April and May. The format for the evening is pure Q&A, and we will have two panelists who will discuss whatever questions the audience. The three topics for this spring are science and faith, sex and contraception, and the GLBTQ community.

 

“[Young adults] said that they need a forum not only where misgivings and doubts can be expressed but also where the teachings of the Church can be clearly articulated in response…much of what young adults feel regarding the institutional Church arises from a misunderstanding of what the Church actually teaches.”

-Sons and Daughters of the Light, USCCB

 

Join us for this unique opportunity!

 

For complete information on Conversations, visit our News and Events page. This event is open to the public.