Dear Saint Anne Community,
It is a pleasure to write to you here at the beginning of the month. In this weekend’s Gospel selection, we hear briefly about how Jesus withdraws to a deserted place to pray after a long day of preaching and healing. When he emerges, he shares with his disciples that his mission is to continue throughout the land to spread the good news, rather than stay in Peter and Andrew’s village. Jesus’ withdrawal to pray occurs several times across the various accounts of his life—the evangelists agreed on the importance of showing Jesus’ personal time for prayer and sustenance of his relationship with the Father.
I have held onto that image for many years. When I was in high school and my campus minister introduced me to the concept of a weekend retreat, I relished the idea that this time away was a way to have something in common with Jesus. Having gone through college and volunteer work and graduate school and several years of professional ministry, Jesus’ small but significant action has taken on even more importance. I cannot function as a good minister if I do not take time to be in relationship with God. During busy and boring times alike, making my prayer life an intentional part of my daily rhythm sustains me and helps me serve others better. As a minister, as a husband, as a friend, as a member of community, I cannot function well if I do not maintain my spiritual life. Checking in with God is what allows me to discern what it means to be loving and faithful in the context of each new day and situation that arises.
When I was in college, I sometimes wished that the weekend experience of retreat could go on forever. I was with good people, removed from the stresses of studies and internships and extracurricular activities, generally in a naturally beautiful spot … it always felt idyllic and in sharp contrast to the rigors and labors of everyday life. Some wise friends and mentors pointed out that I was not the first person to experience this. We hear about the disciples who ascended Mount Tabor with Jesus at the Transfiguration, content to spend a lengthy amount of time in the revealed splendor of Jesus and his forebears. Yet, Jesus bade them to follow him back down the mountain into the thick of things. Similarly, in today’s reading, if Peter and the others in the village expected to bask and relax with Jesus, Jesus has them pack up and move on. My mentors helped me to see a retreat more accurately for what it was meant to be: a way point, a moment above the clouds, an opportunity to get in touch with what is real so as to better navigate the world back on the ground. This helped the approach back to campus and “real life” be less glum and more exciting.
As we enter into February and Lent approaches, I invite you to think about ways that you can take time to nourish your relationship with God in an intentional manner. You will find that we have several opportunities as we approach the Lenten season, but I want to take the opportunity to invite you to join us in a new offering during Lent. Saint Anne will host its first Beloved Retreat on Friday, March 9th-Sunday, March 11th, at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Mundelein. This is a wonderful opportunity to experience community with fellow parishioners while reflecting on the fact that we are all called to know ourselves as God’s beloved children. This retreat started at Old Saint Patrick’s parish in the West Loop several years ago, and over the years, has experienced tremendous growth in their community and in other parish communities in Chicago and beyond.
The retreat is open to all who are 21 years or older, and you can register either by contacting me at 847.620.3070 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or by registering online. The cost of $250.00 covers a private room and bathroom, meals for Friday evening through Sunday morning, and materials for reflection, conversation, etc. $75.00 will reserve your spot, and you can pay off the remaining balance any time between registration and the retreat.
Please consider joining us for this weekend in the middle of Lent—we are thrilled to be able to offer this to you and are so excited to have you join us!