Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Retreat Retread

Several people asked, via the comments box to give an update on the retreat I gave for the religious sisters in Wichita. I will endeavor to be brief.

The general theme of the retreat was a consideration of how the Theology of the Body as envisioned by John Paul the Great can speak to the act of religious consecration. I titled the retreat "Behold, the Bride Comes!" I selected the title because traditionally consecrated women religious are referred to as "Brides of Christ." The question that ran through my mind was is this title a metaphor or something more? In other words, had the Church been making a concessionary line of speech or had been pointing to something deeper?

The five themes the sisters and I explored were 1.) The Body Naked, 2.) The Body Shamed, 3.) The Body Renewed, 4.) The Body Nupital and Consecrated, and 5.) The Body Bridal. The trajectory worked like this. We started from the Garden and moved to the Fall. The Fall's resolution appeared in the Church in which we saw how the term "Body of Christ" is also not a metaphor. From the Church, we considered how the individual member of the Body of Christ embraces their particular vocation. The last presentation discussed the idea that until the consummation of history, the Church is in the middle of the course of history, standing between creation and consummation.

Each day there were reflection questions that I provided that tried to deepen or consider a new angle on the material presented. For example, under the Body Shamed, I had the sisters reflect on Cain and Abel and ask how this sin of the flesh becomes a warning to all who participate in the covenant God enacts.

Each evening, the presentation focused on the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Theology of the Body Realized Already. On the first point, Mary is the true and lasting virgin not only because her body is intact but so is her heart and it is heart-intactness that constitutes true virginity. On the second night, Mary as Mother who intercedes and directs her children away from the shame of the Fall. Third night, which coincided with a penance rite for the sisters, Mary was seen as the Queen of Peace and Our Lady of Reconciliation. She is given as mother of all those living in Christ so that we may know true restoration of all the broken bonds. Fourth and final Marian presentation, Mary, via the Book of Revelation, is both the Archetype of the Communal and Personal Body, the Church, as in the Assumption, she already knows what we long to see. Mary is the Eschatological Bride.

The schedule was pretty loose. Morning Prayer, Morning Presentation, Holy Mass, restful afternoon, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer with a Evening Presentation. For the most part, the immediate feedback was good and I think that I did a good job. Personally, I have an ambivalent relationship with compliments mainly because if it is something people appreciate, that doesn't mean I presented the truth necessarily. Also, I am just neurotic enough to think that the compliment is not precisely sincere -- that it is offered to "make me feel better." But that's my hang up. Also, a compliment doesn't tell me the really essential piece of information that I want, namely the change of life that this encounter with Christ will bring. In the end though, all of the sisters and the staff of the Spiritual Life Center (who heard my homilies from Holy Mass) were very complimentary and that's a good sign. I am reasonably sure the sisters got a lot out of it or at least that is my hope. The real challenge was to present something these sisters hadn't really heard before. You must recall that these sisters have been professed longer than I have been Catholic or born in some cases.

The more I think on it the more I know needs to be put into the retreat. I also
think that it could be a good retreat to give also to married couples, but I seriously doubt they could get away for five days. I would probably have to focus just on the five basic presentations.

For myself, retreats are radical, in the sense that we make contact with our roots. What rooted us when we began to be disciples sometimes loses its purchase and so we must reset the foundation. Thanks to everyone who prayed and we will wait to see what the fruit of this actually is.

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