Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Retreat. As I write this column on Wednesday I am still riding the wave of spiritual refreshment from being on retreat last week (Mon.-Fri., August 18-22). I spent the week with the Dominican Nuns in Linden. Actually, since they’re cloistered I didn’t spend much time “with them” in the usual sense. But joining them in their prayers, chanting their Divine Office throughout the day and celebrating Mass for them, in some ways I felt closer to them than if I had spent hours chatting with them.
Theirs is a simple monastery, not designed for visitors to make personal retreats. But there’s a little apartment for visiting priests, and so I took advantage of that, the chapel, the community liturgies, as well as the beautiful natural setting of the mountain-top monastery to spend a week with Christ.
Canon Law requires all priests to take such a retreat every year, because it’s all too easy for priests to get so focused on the things of the Lord that we fail to focus on the Lord Himself. And if we don’t focus on Him as the source and purpose of our lives and ministries, we will wither as persons, Christians and priests. “I am the vine,” Jesus says, “you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
Although there is no similar mandate in canon law for the laity, spending time in prayer, mediation and resting with the Lord is important for you too. You can also get too caught up in things, either the things of the Lord or the things of the world. So it’s necessary for you to also take time to retreat from the world. Not just to go on vacation, but to go away with the Lord. That’s really what Sunday should be about, at least in part. And every day you should take some time to retreat away from the world, in little ways, to be with Jesus, to pray. And I’d encourage you to consider going on an actual retreat—either a group retreat directed by a priest, or just go off for a day or two alone to a holy place (a retreat house, a monastery, a shrine, etc.), like I did this year, taking just a few good holy books, the bible and my rosary.
In any case, pray every day, and let at least Sunday be a day of prayer and rest with the Lord.
Summer’s Close. With this Labor Day weekend the summer “officially” comes to a close. Most of us still, I think, try to make summer a time of slowing down the pace, working a little less and setting aside time to visit with friends and family, whether on vacations or just on a weekend or evening. It’s a good and healthy thing—very much in line with our human nature, the way God made us.
I hope you had a good summer in this sense. Even if there were crosses, such as family or personal illnesses, I hope there was time for you to rest and recreate. I know for myself this was the first summer in a long time that I’ve been able to do this, at least somewhat. It seems the last four or five summers something always came up to override my plans to “slow down.” This summer, though, by the grace of God, in about mid-July I was able take things a little easier. I don’t want you to think I wasn’t working: I simply committed to actually take my full day off every Tuesday and to try not to work too late every evening. I hope I didn’t ever neglect my essential duties to you—I apologize for anything that fell through the cracks. But I thank the Lord for the opportunity to rest a bit, and hope that you were able to do the same (both “slow down” and “thank the Lord”).
School Year Begins. Labor Day also means our kids are back in school. I hope and pray that all of you “kids” have a wonderful year of growing in knowledge and wisdom. Apply yourself to your school work, and to a reasonable amount of extracurricular activities, and excel as best you can. But remember that as important as grades and victories, etc., are, it is even more important to simply learn. And to learn not just what’s in the books, but to learn how to think, using reason and good judgment. Always respect authority, but remember not to accept everything on face value, even if it might be written in a book. Most especially, respect the authority of your parents, and the authority of Christ and His Church. I’m sorry to say, sometimes people (teachers, coaches, friends etc.) with all good intentions, will tell you things that are just not right. Make sure you talk to your parents about what you’re learning in school, and what the people at school are doing and saying. God created us to live and learn first and foremost in the family, and our parents are our primary teachers. The family is the house of love: your parents love you more than any teacher or friend (as good as they are) could ever dream of—and Jesus loves you even more!
Remember what was said of our Lord when he was a 12 year old: “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace before God and men.” It’s not just about academics or sports: really growing requires advancing in grace, and becoming the great men and women God created you to be. So let this be a year of staying close to Christ and growing in holiness and your Catholic faith. Do good, and avoid all that is evil. Pray, and know that Jesus wants to give you all the grace you need.
So, spread your wings a bit this year, be curious and inquisitive, but always stay close to your parents and Jesus, and count on them to guide you through what I hope will be a wonderful year for all of you.
CCD/Religious Education. A complete academic education includes learning about Jesus Christ and His Church, so a new school year means we can’t neglect continuing Catholic education. Like any good education, that involves work at home and in school. So, parents, teach your kids about their Catholic faith informally at home AND make sure they have some formal, systematic, academic learning as well—either at home (according to a disciplined plan), in Catholic schools, or in our parish CCD/Religious Education program.
Our CCD/RE school year begins next weekend. Registration forms are in the narthex, outside the RE office in the parish hall (downstairs) and online on our website. Please take advantage of this program so that the school year can be truly all it should be.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles