Part one is here
So after lunch we had free time until 3:00, when the Divine Mercy Chaplet would be said in the chapel. Priests were available for confession, but other than that, there were no talks planned and you could do whatever you wanted.
Since it was a gorgeous fall day, I went outside to spend some time enjoying the weather while I read my books. I read more of I Believe In Love and wrote a few thoughts in my journal. Some people were making the stations of the cross at the outdoor set that’s been erected, which I would have done, but we were saying stations communally at 5, and I was going to do that.
I took a really brief nap—10 minutes!— then went to the chapel, prayed a bit, and read some more. There’s a small side chapel where I like to sit:
The reliquary of St. Therese and St. Margaret Mary Alocoque (who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart) is also in here.
This is the hardest part of retreat to describe, because it’s so interior, but to me it’s also the best part. Yes, I pray, yes, I read, but I also just talk to God, and listen to His replies. What is He saying to me? What is He asking me?
It’s also a good time to take stock of where I am in my religious life. Is it going well, or not? Am I more fervent than I was a year ago, or not? Does my schedule need adjusted so I have more time for prayer? What is stopping me or hindering my prayer? Distractions? Laziness? (Meaning, I just don’t make time for prayer, when I know I could and should be praying?) Venerable Fulton Sheen said that the spiritual life is meant to grow, not stay stagnant. It’s like our bodies—they have to continually grow. If our bodies stopped growing, we’d be in trouble! So the spiritual life is like that, which is one of the reasons retreat is so important. We have to check in, and it’s a lot easier to do when there aren’t any distractions and it’s quiet!
So I write, and I read, and I ponder, and I listen.
After the quiet period, we had the second conference, this time on Baptism, its roots in the Bible and Jewish tradition, and some other points.
Some of the quotes from Fr. Stephen:
“Genesis is like algebra—it’s about relationships.”
“We have a duty to participate in God’s life, with even deeper communion and even deeper fellowship.”
“God’s commitment to us began at our own baptism. Our mission is revealed—we are bound to Christ.”
“We read Scripture in its totality!”
And one of my favorite things I took away from the conference—anxiety and fear push us into a moment that doesn’t exist yet, and it might never exist! In those moments, call upon God who loves you and ask Him for help and what I should do.
At 5:00, we said stations of the cross in the chapel, followed by Vespers and then dinner. The third conference, on the Eucharist, was at 6:45, and as always, in between things you had your own time and space to pray or read or rest or whatever you wanted to do.
(After dinner I actually went on a walk with a friend—Olivia—that I “knew” on Twitter—it was so nice to meet her in person!)
The Eucharist talk was extremely enlightening because it connected our celebration of th Eucharist with the Jewish tradition and really drew strong parallels, as well as illustrating how Jesus was in no way speaking metaphorically in the Bread of Life discourse (John 6). Fr. Stephen mentioned Scott Hahn’s The Fourth Cup, which I haven’t read yet (but will!), but I have read (and am currently re-reading) Brant Pitre’s Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, which is a full, book-length treatise on Fr. Stephen’s topic and is a wonderful explanation fo the Eucharist. It’s sort of mind-blowing, actually.
(This is where retreat is a vacation, yes, but it also causes you to learn, if it’s a good retreat. Yay learning! Yay knowing more about our faith!)
(In fact, one of the most mind-blowing things Fr. Stephen shared was this: the Passover lambs, used for sacrifice at Passover in the Temple, were specially raised, because they had to slaughter more than two hundred thousand of them every year. So there were whole flocks just of these pascal lambs.
These lambs were raised in Bethlehem.
The flocks that the shepherds were guarding on Christmas were…..lambs of sacrifice.
The paschal lambs were at the birth of the Paschal Lamb!)
We had one of my favorite things—Eucharistic Exposition—at 8:00. This means that the Eucharist is displayed in the monstrance, and we have all-night vigil, because you can’t leave the Exposed Host alone. So all night, women came and went from the chapel to spend time with Jesus in prayer.
My hour was from 10 to 11. Before then, I had changed into my pajamas and slippers —yes I went to the chapel in my Corgi pants and slippers!—and took my meds so that when I got back I could just go to bed.
Adoration is really a beautiful thing, and holy hours are my favorite way to pray. If you don’t make them, I highly highly highly recommend it, and so do the saints!
After holy hour, I went to bed, because the alarm would go off at 7 again, for the last part of the retreat….