Soon after coming to Saint Charles, I was encouraged to create a blog to promote spirituality (and events) with some of the people I met during my three decades of priesthood and keep you abreast of how we are progressing through adversities and struggles with your support to revitalize the parish. All of my previous priestly assignments had been in Jackson County—so this was new territory for me. The blog has about 1700 followers, many who told me that they forward the posts to family members and friends and, on any given day, it might attract 40-50 random views from people around the globe. But in the past week, during our isolation directives, well over 100,000 people have checked-in. This makes me think that, while confined, we might be willing to try just about anything.
I wonder: Would you make an in-home retreat with me while you’re trapped? Throughout salvation history, God trapped people in unlikely situations and coerced them to do things they wouldn’t normally do; by doing them, they gained a new perspective. “Retreat” means to step back and separate from normal routines. To retreat calls us to size up our situation, gain insight from a guide or spiritual companion, and think about matters in a prayerful way so that we can advance our position. Retreating suggests that we will return to the situation at hand but do so in an enlightened way and with renewed spirit.
You might think of this as an in-home “coronavirus-quarantine-isolation retreat.” But I’d also like to think of it as an “advance retreat.” Of course, “advance” is the opposite of “retreat” as one means to step back while the other means to step forward. This, essentially, is what Lent is: a time for us to remove ourselves from normal chaos so that we can emerge ahead of where we began with a revitalized perspective. If you want to join in this stay-at-home retreat, you can begin on Monday and click in each weekday for a one-minute guidance video followed by one reflection question to ponder, one prayer to meditate upon, or one spiritual exercise to try. The goals of this retreat are 1) to unite us with one another; 2) to re-introduce you to some saints, spiritualities, and devotions that could accompany you while sheltering in place; and 3) to help you emerge from quarantine in a spiritually revitalized way.
Jesus’ undying promise to us was that we would never be left alone. Even hermits who choose solitude realize that they are not alone while in isolation or that they don’t have to be lonely when they are by themselves. The retreat topics will include a) how retreating actually advances us, b) finding a spirituality that each of us can embrace, c) Lenten themes that help us become “Easter People,” d) saints and prayers that can guide us through difficult times, and e) Biblical connections that can be touchstones for us. If you would like to be part of this retreat, simply click here to enter your e-mail address. You will have the option to interact with others who are on a similar spiritual journey to yours via future blog posts and share resource through social media. Like the rest of us, I am experimenting with what seems to make sense in these unusual days. As it was three years ago when I began to blog, I am charting new territory.
Let us pray for one another during this time, that we use it for good, for gain, for growth, and for God.