Friday, June 6, 2008

Post Discernment Retreat

The retreat mentioned in the last entry seemed to have gone very well. All of the participants appreciated the opportunity to be at Mont La Salle with the Brothers and Novices as they reflected on, prayer about, and considered their journey with God. Having it at this time of the year, and being able to involve the Novitiate Community, along with the Provincialate Community, were all key factors in making this such a good experience for those involved.

There were six individuals who joined us for this retreat. The majority were in their twenties, but we also had a couple of older men exploring their options. I would say that it was a good, eclectic mix of people - sort of like the Brothers themselves are - all of whom were genuinely interested in looking seriously at the possibility that the Brothers vocation might be where God was leading them.

By design, the weekend was set up so as to take advantage of both the setting and the opportunity to spend time in quiet reflection, in small conversations, or in simply being present to God's graces in one's life. There were four sessions during which the group met together, both to listen to the way that the Brother's vocation manifests itself in real lives, to discuss an article on discerning one's vocation, and to share one's own insights and experiences about how God is leading us in our present lives and circumstances.

On one of the days, the group was hosted for breakfast and dinner by the Provincialate community on the other side of the property. This was yet another opportunity to meet other Brothers and engage in various kinds of conversations in a relaxed setting.

It was important, I believe, to also do something "fun" during the retreat. And so on Saturday afternoon we went to downtown Napa and lunch at "Taylor's Refresher" followed by a more-extensive-than-planned tour of the Napa Valley. During the tour, we saw the valley from one of the hillsides, had a great private tour of Greystone (now the Culinary Institute of America) in St. Helena, courtesy of Chris Sullivan, the concierge there and former novice with me here at MLS, and stopped by both the Napa Valley's own castle and at the Carmelite monastery in Oakville for a quick visit. All in all, it was a pretty complete tour and turned out to be just the right thing at that point in the retreat.

Because of the kind of retreat this was, there were no major decisions or life-changing encounters. What happened was rather more significant, I believe. Anytime one has an opportunity to seriously reflect on important things in one's life, the ground begins to sway a little. Consequences are neither predictable nor peripheral. Something happens when God is allowed room to move in a little deeper, and the best we can do is to step aside and allow that influence to have its effect.

It's probably one good reason why so many spiritual writers advise us to take a minute out of every hour, an hour out of every day, a day out of every week, a week out of every year to seriously concentrate on the important stuff and to delve a little more deeply into what it is that really makes us tick, and breathe, and live, and pray. With the kinds of benefits that inevitably ensue, you'd think we'd be more eager to do so.