DVD of retreat with Bishop Clark tops offerings for diocesan spiritual renewal, 'Spirit Alive!' - Catholic Courier

DVD of retreat with Bishop Clark tops offerings for diocesan spiritual renewal, ‘Spirit Alive!’

Zacchaeus, a hated tax collector, climbed a sycamore tree to get a better look at Jesus. That’s when Christ singled him out of the crowd.

“Jesus saw him in the tree, a short person, and said, ‘I want to come to your house,’” Bishop Matthew H. Clark observed during a Jan. 12 retreat for about 30 people at Fairport’s St. John of Rochester Parish. “‘I want to be part of your life, just as you want to come see me.’”

Like Zacchaeus, we frequently yearn to be close with Jesus, the bishop remarked, and Christ often responds in turn with a personal invitation for us to get to know him better.

Thousands more diocesan Catholics will be able to hear the bishop’s talk in the months to come, thanks to a DVD of the retreat being made by the Fairport-based film and video company Crystal Pix. The DVDs will be distributed to diocesan parishes March 1 as one facet of the three-year diocesan spiritual renewal Spirit Alive!, which begins with the start of Lent this week.

“(The renewal is) not a program; it’s a series of opportunities for people to continue their spiritual journey wherever they are,” said Maribeth Mancini, cochair of the diocese’s spiritual-renewal. “It is a series of chances for both parishes and individuals.”

The theme of this year’s phase of the renewal is deepening one’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and parishioners will be invited this Pentecost to commit to such personal relationships. Even after people make their Pentecost commitments, materials from the first phase of the renewal will still be available so they can continue their spiritual journey, said Mancini, director of the diocese’s department of Evangelization and Catechesis.

Renewal resources — such as a timeline, answers about the renewal, suggestions for family spirituality, quotes, prayers and other materials — also are available on a special Web site created for the renewal, www.rochesterspiritalive.org. Additional materials will be added as time progresses, Mancini said.

But where does one begin this spiritual journey?

“A relationship with Jesus begins with choice,” said Father Peter Clifford, cochair with Mancini of the renewal and pastor of St. John of Rochester Parish in Fairport. “It begins with the individual person saying, ‘I want this. I want to be in deeper relationship with him.’ ”

After making such a commitment, a person is faced with an array of options to connect with Christ.

Mancini suggested trying different styles of prayer. “Most of us are stuck in a prayer rut,” she observed.

She said the church offers many different types of prayer, including the Lectio Divina, a slow, spiritual and meditative reading of the Gospels in which a person focuses on listening to what God is saying and then responds to that message in prayer. Another type of prayer would be reading the Bible each day and setting aside a few minutes throughout the day to contemplate Jesus and the impact of his life, she said.

Father Clifford suggested making a commitment to prayer as part of one’s daily routine.

“It is in the same place with the same routine,” the priest said. “But what has become clear to me is the most important thing I can do is show up.”

Once he shows up, God leads the way, Father Clifford said.

Gee Gee Micoli, a member of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Mendon and a member of the spiritual-renewal planning committee, said she prays in the morning before she gets out of bed.

“If I get going in my day (without praying), I don’t make time later in the day,” she said.

And prayer isn’t the only way to get close to Jesus, according to one participant in the Jan. 12 retreat.

As a youth minister for 25 years, Rich Versluys, a parishioner of St. Matthew Parish in Livonia, said he finds his faith renewed by the teens he has served.

“They have really enhanced my faith, probably more than what I’ve been able to give to them,” said Versluys, who previously was involved with youth ministry at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Spencerport with his wife, Sue Versluys, who is now the diocesan coordinator of youth ministry.

Father Clifford suggested people also might want to join small Christian communities, noting that the community in which he’s involved has helped him deepen his relationship with Christ. He is one of the junior members of the six-man group, with which he has been meeting for a mere 12 years; more than half of the group’s members have been meeting together for 33 years.

“I think every one of us would say that group has saved our life,” Father Clifford said.

Connecting to Jesus also can be done in larger groups, Bishop Clark said during the retreat.

He noted that one of the best ways to connect intimately with Christ is through participation in the Eucharist, which he described as the “source and summit of the Christian life,” referencing the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, also known as Lumen Gentium. Each Mass is a new opportunity to explore Jesus’ sacrifice for us, he said.

“Even in our restlessness, in our pain, in our struggles, he leads us to consider afresh his pain, his struggles and his needs,” Bishop Clark said.

Acknowledging that fewer people attend Mass regularly today than in the past, the bishop said he is concerned about patterns, habits and trends that separate people from the Eucharist. He noted that the eucharistic community is nourished by its members.

“I would like to see us go to the Eucharist out of an inner impulse, an inner desire,” Bishop Clark said.

During the retreat, the bishop reflected on celebrating the Eucharist at the National Catholic Youth Convention in November 2007 with 20,000 teens who sang and were engaged in worship. He noted that the young people also had prepared for the liturgies with their youth leaders for weeks prior to the convention.

“It was one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve ever had in my life, because to me, it speaks to me about what the Eucharist can be,” Bishop Clark said.

Mancini and Father Clifford suggested several other ways to connect with Christ. In addition to actively participating in the Eucharist, people can deepen their relationships with Jesus by participating in such prayer experiences and programs as Cursillo, a short course on spirituality and evangelization, Father Clifford said.

Mancini said other methods could include subscribing to Catholic magazines, visiting Catholic Web sites or reading spiritual books.

The spiritual-renewal team is making plans for a future portion of the renewal to help people do the latter, Mancini said. The team will choose a spiritual book for diocesan parishioners to discuss either face-to-face or on the Internet, she said.

She added that many opportunities are being suggested because what works for one person may not work for another.

“Growing in faith is different for different people at different points in life,” she said. “The point is you don’t stop. We are constantly called to conversion. We are constantly called to a relationship with Jesus Christ.”


Other elements of the spiritual renewal

The spiritual renewal will include the following elements:

* Reflection questions about the weekly readings, which will be available to pastoral leaders for use with parishioners throughout the diocese, said Maribeth Mancini, co-chair of the spiritual-renewal committee.

* A Catholic call-in event to help answer people’s questions about the Catholic faith.

* Healing services in each region that will incorporate liturgies of the word and private confessions. Mancini said she hopes parishes will be able to use the liturgies to reach out to those who may have drifted away from the church.

* Online retreats, including one for young adults and another for youths.

* DVDs on such topics as various styles of spirituality. The first DVD, on Thomas Merton’s spirituality, has been filmed by an area parishioner who is donating time to the project. Mancini said she hopes future DVDs will be produced over the next few months on such other spiritualities as those of the Dominicans, Augustinians and Franciscans.

* A publisher’s fair, at which people would be able to buy Bibles and spiritual literature.

* A diocesan pilgrimage, “Across the Ages: A Eucharistic Journey,” which is scheduled to take place from 1 to 5 p.m. June 7 at the New York Chiropractic College in Seneca Falls. Mancini said the pilgrimage is connected to the spiritual renewal and to the diocese’s 140th anniversary this year. It will have a special emphasis and focus on the Eucharist, and also will be an opportunity to bless those diocesan delegates to the International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City June 19 to 22.

“A pilgrimage is an important symbol in spiritual renewal,” Mancini said. “We are on a pilgrimage of discovery.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Details on the timing of some of these elements were not available at press time; check www.rochesterspiritalive.org for updates.

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