Reflections on the St.Blaise Men’s Retreat (Part 2)

Earlier this month, men from our Holy Name Society, as well as other men from St. Monica, attended a weekend retreat. Malvern Retreat House was the host site. Last week I began presenting some reflections by these men. Let me offer several more this week.

Tom mentioned a couple of high points that stood out for him. “The sheer number who attended - 160 men was impressive. They dedicated a weekend to be on the way of the Lord. This is something for which I am very grateful.”

He went further:

I enjoyed the simplicity and austerity of my room. There were no distractions. This allowed me to reflect on why I am here. My “Give Thanks to God” after the knock on the door first thing in the morning, seemed to transport me to a different time and place. The small piece of soap on the sink was a reminder of where I am and what’s important. The community at mealtime was special. Food was served family-style. We watched men getting awards for 30, 40, 50 years of attendance. We saw generations of men, and their sons, telling the story of St Joseph in the Hills.

Our Pastor, Fr Zlock, provided the conferences. The most important one for me was the difference between “happiness” and “joy.” Happiness is temporal. It’s doing “that bucket list kind of thing” until you go onto the next bullet point on your agenda. But joy is different. You know it when you feel it. It’s always there. It’s the real deal. I’m looking for more “Peace and Joy” for 2020.

I loved Adoration - that quiet time in prayer, listening, a time with God. The Saturday Night Walk to Our Lady’s Grotto with men from St Monica was also a deep experience. The reason was that we know each other and our needs. We came to ask for Our Lady’s comfort and ask her to intercede for us with her Son. Father Jim McGuinn, the Rector of the retreat house, celebrated the Mass on Sunday. The Sunday Mass had a depth of experience that was very unique. It was a celebration, it was spirit-filled. Ir provided a new understanding of the Gospel combined with the sound of men praising God in song.

Mark wrote that every year around November, he begins to spread the good word and “save the date” for our yearly experience at Malvern.

To ‘”retreat veterans,” it is a welcoming sign that we are fast approaching that special weekend to be with the Lord in a very special way. However, I was especially grateful to those who were new this year. I want to thank them for taking the time away from their families and chores so they could experience what Malvern is all about. It was not the men’s inviting efforts, but also the calling of the Lord to come and spend some time together. It was especially wonderful to see those who were new last year, return this year. THAT speaks volumes as well. There was something that hit them last year as a newcomer that convinced them to make this a yearly ritual.

Mark said further - “In 2019 we had 11 attendees. In 2020 we had 17 attendees. As we grow our retreat program we rely on spreading the word of experiences to everyone. We speak to those that have never experienced Malvern. We talk to those who have not been at Malvern for a while, as well as the “regulars”. It can be a holy epidemic - a good thing, ….. no, a GREAT thing.”

Mark mentioned his thanks to St. Monica’s pastor, spiritual director, and friend - Fr. Zlock for his company and messages over the retreat weekend. “It was an added bonus knowing about a year ago that he would be with us this year. I believe that this was an instrumental component of why our numbers were what they were this year.”

Mark had many take-away’s from the weekend.

I loved Father Zlock’s analogy of walking the Appalachian trail. On the trail, you use and rely on the white markings on trees. This ensures you are going the right way. What happens if you don’t see (right away) the next marking? What do you do? Do you panic, or trust you are going the right way? Then…. right around the bend a bit, there’s the next sign. There is Jesus saying, “I’ll lead you, but you need to figure out what to do when you get there.

The men were grateful for a new prayer that they learned at the retreat. They hope to incorporate it into their monthly meetings. They were thankful for the vision, experiences, and the meditated discussion between the sessions. They said, “This was very good. So what are we going to do next year???”

Tod appreciated that Malvern provided quiet, undistracted time. This quiet time provides the chance to get closer with Jesus. He said that “Entering into the quiet time with that goal gets you the connection immediately. I left the weekend getting a grip on what’s really important. I have some goals for positive change in His name.”

Tod was especially grateful for the other men.

I have been the recipient of many prayers both individual and groups. I know first hand the power of prayer. Being raised a Catholic, I was taught and learned all the basic Catholic principles and beliefs. However, I never truly had a relationship with Christ. I went to church, confession (a rare occasion) and I always tried to live doing what was right. I knew Christ but never showed it. I am embarrassed to say, that it took a grave illness for me to realize how much I needed a closer relationship with our Lord and Savior.

His plan for me is still not clear but it easier for me to recognize his WINKS. I believe my being here is, in fact, a miracle and that I am here for a reason. This retreat afforded me the time to reflect on my life and provided clarity of purpose. I will always be “Chasing his Grace” (a phrase from one of the talks) and I pray harder and louder every day. I especially enjoyed Father’s prayer instruction sheet. It gives me more structure.

I am interested in the reunion and I was thinking about a group visit to the grotto during Lent. I am grateful for knowing you guys and I thank you for your prayers. Thanks to Joe Lydon for his and the administration team’s efforts. This just doesn’t happen. Months of planning goes on behind the scenes to make the weekend run smoothly.

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