Feeling like your spiritual life has grown stale? You might want to consider freshening it by participating in a parish Lenten mission or retreat.
Often consisting of several talks by a speaker or speakers over a series of days, parish missions and retreats are taking place or have taken place at several faith communities throughout the Diocese of Rochester this Lent (see sidebar).
Take the Winton-Culver Catholic Community, which comprises St. John the Evangelist and St. Ambrose churches in Rochester and St. James in Irondequoit. The WCCC held a Lenten retreat from Feb. 14-16, which included morning and evening sessions at each of the parishes that were devoted to the themes of hope, healing and home. The retreat’s speaker, Father Tim Keating, a Redemptorist priest from Saratoga Springs, is former director of Notre Dame Retreat Center in Canandaigua.
“What I’m usually trying to do is to get people alert to the love of God,” he said. He noted that a presentation at a retreat or mission should cause Catholics to ask the same question that the disciples on the road to Emmaus did after they realized they had been walking with the risen Jesus: “Were not our hearts burning within us as he spoke?”
The WCCC pastor, Father Robert Schrader, said parishes benefit when outsiders preach.
“I think it’s always helpful to hear a fresh voice … not only for the people in the pews but the staff as well,” he said. “I always hear something new by hearing it preached from a different angle.”
During his Feb. 16 evening session and Mass at St. James Church, Father Keating offered a different angle to his listeners on the subject of their bodies being temples of the Holy Spirit. He noted that Jesus is as present in each person as he is in the Eucharist. To drive his point home, he asked Rodney and Rosalee Magee, a couple married for 34 years, if either of them ever genuflected to each other. The question drew chuckles from the audience, but Father Keating noted he was making a serious point.
“There is a way that Jesus is happier to be here,” he said, pointing at the congregation, “than he is to be there,” he added, pointing toward the tabernacle. Tabernacles can’t express anything about what they contain, namely the Eucharist, but people can, he noted.
After the presentation, Rodney Magee said he had no problem taking the time to come out on a snowy evening to attend a Lenten retreat.
“It’s the most important thing we can do, to keep rebuilding our relationship with God,” he said. “That’s for eternity — it’s not short term.”
Another positive aspect of coming to a parish retreat is the fact that you’re not required to be there, according to Elaine Becker, a member of St. James. She noted she particularly liked coming together with the community to pray.
“It’s not a Sunday that you have to be here — it’s a different feeling,” she said.
Her friend, Rita Lee, secretary at St. James, added that it’s important to work on one’s faith.
“I’ve always said you have to fuel your faith, and if you don’t fuel it, it dies,” she said.