Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

My Retreat

So, as I mentioned before, I went on retreat from July 24 to Aug 1. It was a really beautiful experience, and I am especially appreciative of the community that hosted me, provided me meals, and a daily spiritual director. I feel like the lines of communication between me, myself, and God are more open than they've been in a long time, and that can only be a good thing.

That said, the retreat was not easy or, in one sense, pleasant. "There's a reason," my director said on Day 5, "that they are called spiritual exercises. A retreat is not a vacation." Holy freaking cow, was he dead right on the money! I forget where I read - I think St. Anselm - that the spiritual life is much more difficult than the natural life, and mental labor more difficult than physical. As an academic, he was perhaps biased and defending his lifestyle, except for a key rationale he provides: if it were easier, wouldn't spiritual development be sought and attained more frequently than the material? Yet we see the opposite. Additionally, St. Anselm himself was accustomed from his youth to working for his father, attaining some prosperity therein, hard toil (like walking from Italy to northeastern France to get to the monastery that he eventually joined!) and physical sacrifice, so one can hardly say that he simply hadn't tried the material life. My retreat was eight days long and silent - no talking, no books (except the Good one) or newspapers, certainly no iPod (!). I went to Mass each day, and met with my spiritual director for an hour or two each day. That was very nice. Then in was back into silence. I ran about every other day, and was encouraged to eat heartily and take naps. Lots of time with me, my Bible, and God.

It got intense.

Even when I wasn't in chapel praying, prayer just kinda popped in on its own without me looking for it. Sometimes it was like wrestling with Him. A friend asked me, "Lol. Who won that wrestling match?!"
I laughed, and thought for a minute. When we wrestle with God, we always win. That's because if we win, we win; and if we cry "uncle," (or more aptly, "Father!") and submit to God's will, then we win, too. And don't think that it's blasphemous to write about beating God in a wrestling match. There's precedent: don't forget Jacob and the angel (Gen 32:24-25).

The retreat also required a lot of perseverance. It helped that I flew to Omaha and was picked up at the airport, so I couldn't really go anywhere. But at points I was crawling out of my skin to get out and get it over with. Just like in a run, one might stop to breathe, stretch, or walk, I found myself a couple of times cheating: sneaking a look at an old newspaper, or having a quite, furtive conversation with another retreatant. But basically I stuck with it. I kinda thought - don't take this as dogma - that retreats have different durations, like races. A day retreat might be like a mile run, a weekend like a 5k, a week-long retreat like a 10k, and the 30-day retreat Jesuits make might be compared to a marathon. Maybe there's something there.

So it was good. There were some things that God and I needed to hash out together, kinda like our own little Beer Summit. Only happier, and nobody had to get arrested.

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