Lent 2006 Retreat


Welcome to our Lenten Retreat. The moderators have asked that, since this is a first, we try a silent retreat. The idea here would be that I will post my “talk” on this thread. Others will have the chance to read my reflection, but no one else will be allowed to post to this retreat thread. If you wish to correspond with me about any issues that might arise as a result of this retreat experience, you can PM me or, to keep my forum inbox from passing it’s limit, you can e-mail me at an address that I am setting up just for this retreat CAF2006retreat@stjohnjordan.org. This e-mail address will disappear after Easter. Using this e-mail address will give me your e-mail address. If this is a concern, please PM me. If my box is full please try again a little later.

That being said, I’d like to tell you a little about myself. I am a priest of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings serving the Church of Eastern Montana. In June I’ll celebrate the 12th anniversary of my ordination. I serve three small parishes spread across 7000 square miles of eastern Montana. I serve about 175 families in this area. The folks in the Water Cooler have gotten to know me a little more during the past couple of weeks. I’m sure if you ask they can tell you some stories, but don’t let that distract you from your retreat.

To make this retreat experience a truly prayerful experience, I’d suggest that you participate in as much of the following as possible.

Attend daily Mass.

Go to confession at least once during this holy season

Participate in Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer each day. If you need a resource for the Liturgy of the Hours look here http://www.universalis.com/

Spend 15 minutes each day in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in quiet prayer. If you can not spend 15 minutes at your local church try this as a substitute. http://www.savior.org/

During the course of this retreat, I plan on starting each of my talk/reflections with a prayer, a scripture passage with a link, a talk and links to other suggested readings that I think may be appropriate.

I suggest that you subscribe to this thread so you’ll know when I’ve added my next talk/reflection and prayer. You can do that by clicking on the thread tools drop down menu above and clicking on subscribe to thread. I will add a new talk/reflection after a few days. I want to allow everyone a chance to reflect a little upon what was said before I introduce a new topic.

My intention of this retreat is not to lead to theological debate, but to encourage spiritual reflection. I hope that all of you have a blessed and holy Lenten experience.


Let us pray:

Merciful Father, You are gracious and the source of all that is good in the world and for this we give you thanks. We gather here from many scattered lands to begin this season of Lent. We ask that you let your Holy Spirit guide our time together during this holy season. I ask that you speak through me to help draw your people close to you and your love. Help us all in our need to work towards conversion in our lives. Help us to see where we are and where you might want to lead us. As we share in some way with your Son’s own forty days in the desert, draw us closer to you. We ask this in His name, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.


We read from the prophet Joel (2:12-18)

Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing, Offerings and libations for the LORD, your God. Blow the trumpet in Zion! proclaim a fast, call an assembly; Gather the people, notify the congregation; Assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast; Let the bridegroom quit his room, and the bride her chamber. Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep, And say, “Spare, O LORD, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach, with the nations ruling over them! Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.


“Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.” Each year as we attend Mass on Ash Wednesday we hear this scripture passage. We hear this challenge to return to the Lord. For some of us this is not an easy task. For some of us, we’ve lost track of who God is in our lives. As we begin this Lenten retreat the first thought in our mind should be giving ourselves to God. Sunday we will hear a story of Jesus’ time in the desert and then John the Baptist’s proclamation to reform our lives. Where are we headed with the life that we are living today? Are our lives leading us to our all loving God, or are our lives leading us to ourselves? I think that each year as we begin Lent that these are good questions to reflect upon. As you strive to “return to [God] with all your heart” you may find some areas in life that are not about God.
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I’m not going to go in depth into the Church’s teaching on morality. You can take a little time to check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/pt3sect2chpt2ind.htm
However, as an example, I will address one issue, but it can be carried over to many of the issues we struggle with in our lives as we strive to turn back to God. Most people, Catholic or not, know what the church teaches about artificial birth control. It is prohibited. Very few people have taken the time to actually read why the church teaches what she does. It is easier to say the church is outdated on this topic and do our own thing or to think, “I know what is best for me.” To strive to know why leads us to a change of heart.

As you look at your life during this Lenten season, I want you to be serious about the areas where you may need to return to God. What are the things that are pushing us towards ourselves? Sometime these things take the form of our jobs. While jobs are an important part of most people’s lives, we often let our jobs become the all important part of our lives. If our job, or making money, becomes a god, we need to take the time to turn back to God.

I made a quick reference above to morality. As we look at our sexuality, is it geared towards what makes us feel good (what brings us pleasure),or is it geared towards doing God’s will with the great gift that he has given us? Do we need to redirect the intimacy in our lives to living out a faithful, loving relationship as God intended? In married life this means that special relationship that exists between a husband and wife when they share in the marital embrace. For single people, this involves sharing the love that God has given us with those around us by modeling that love for others. Perhaps for many of us this is an area where we need to return to God.

The second thing we need to think about as we hear God’s call to conversion is to really understand what it means to “rend your hearts, not your garments.” In our lives it is very easy to go through all of the hoops to live out our faith. We can go to church because we are suppose to. We can give up something for Lent because we should. We can do good things for the wrong reason. Part of our call to conversion is to change our hearts to truly realize where God is leading us. It is a lot easier to look like a follower of Jesus as opposed to being a follower of Jesus. Lent is a time to ask ourselves if our actions really reflect our hearts. Do we love God? Do we spend time in true contemplation as we pray? Why do we go to Mass or other church services? Do we truly love our hurting neighbors, or do we throw money at their problems so we do not have to deal with them personally?

As you reflect upon your heart, I hope that it is opened wider towards loving our God with all of your heart, soul, and being and towards loving our neighbor as yourself.

As a preview here is a hint of the topics that will be coming up in the next few sessions: God’s Call For Healing, God’s Call For the Vocation of Marriage, God’s Call For the Vocation to Priesthood or Religious Life, God’s Call to Evangelize. [/font]


Let us Pray,

Holy and Gracious God, we know that you are the source of all that is good and that we are undeserving of your many gifts. You send your grace into our lives to help us recognize your goodness. As we begin our Lenten journey, we ask that you will help us return to you with all of our hearts. Help us to give ourselves fully to you, our loving Father. We ask this through your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.


I’d like to add a few more resources to help you on your journey during this Lenten Season

Stations of the Cross and other Devotions on the Passion

Virtual Rosary

Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI For Lent 2006

I hope you are having a blessed Lent


Let us pray,

Loving God, you bring us the spiritual and physical healing that we need. As we gather now to continue our Lenten journey we ask that you will send your healing graces upon us. We ask that you help us as we struggle to deal with the physical, mental and spiritual illnesses in our lives. We make this prayer through Jesus Christ, your son and our savior. Amen


From the Acts of the Apostles 3:1-10

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple area for the three o’clock hour of prayer. And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, (rise and) walk.” Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong. He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the one who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with amazement and astonishment at what had happened to him.



God’s Call to Healing

 Many times in our lives we are placed in a situation that requires healing. Often times this need for is very evident in that it is in the response to physical pain or suffering in our lives. As we look at the passage from Acts we see a crippled man who is very much in need of healing, but he seems to have given up hope. He is carried each day to “the Beautiful gate” to ask for alms.  His biggest concern was no longer to be healed, but to make it through another day by receiving the alms for which he asked. One can only image his surprise when Peter told him to get up and he found that he could. Jesus had worked a miracle through one of his chosen ones. How many times have you been in a similar situation? You find yourself in pain and you think there is no real healing available. You make up your mind to just get by. Yet, God is offering us healing all of the time. We must not fall into despair and loose hope, but we must be willing to look with hope for the true healing that God can bring into our lives.

Perhaps it won’t be a physical healing like one might hope for, but it may be the initial healing he bestowed upon the paralytic who was lowered through the roof in the Gospel story we’ve heard so many times. “Your sins are forgiven.” After the concern was raised by those present, in order to show them that he had the power to forgive sins, he told the man to get up, pick up his mat and go home.

Perhaps in our lives this is truly the healing that we seek, the healing of our soul. This is the healing that is not always visible, but it can be just as apparent within each of us. I know my feelings of great joy after I’ve been able to go to confession. It brings great sense of comfort for me in my life. I know and recognize God’s love as he reaches out to me in the person of the priest to tell me that my sins have been absolved.

As we contemplate God’s healing in our lives, I want you to take some time to think about when you might have received God’s grace through the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. Have you, when you’ve been in danger of death or seriously ill, asked for this sacrament? If not, perhaps you are like the man in the temple content to be looking for alms when you could have healing.

What about the healing of your soul through confession? In the previous talk I spoke about God’s call to conversion. My hope is that as you see the need for conversion in your lives, you’ll see the need to receive the healing that is offered through the sacrament of reconciliation. As an introduction to this retreat I stressed the desire that everyone take advantage of the opportunity to go to confession during this holy season. I hope that you will recognize that gift of God in your life. God’s healing is there for us, both physical and spiritual. If you would like to do some more reading on this gift I’d encourage you to check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church usccb.org/catechism/text/pt2sect2chpt2ind.htm.

The next talk we will have will be to look at God’s Call for the Vocation of Marriage. We will talk about what marriage means both for those who are already celebrating this sacrament in their lives and for those who one day may realize the love of Christ and his Bride is meant to be about.


Let us pray,

Loving Father, bring joy and healing into our lives. As we pray today, we ask that you help us recognize the healing you have bestowed upon us. Help us to look for your gift of healing as we need it. You have given us the sacraments, let us truly strive to expereince them so that we may share in your love. We make this prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen


Let us Pray,

Ever loving Father, We thank you for the gift of family. You call man and woman together to become an example of the love that Christ has for his bride, the Church. As we continue our Lenten journey and listen to your call in our lives we ask that you help us to fully understand what a gift married life can be for each of us. We ask this in your name. Amen


We read from the book of Tobit (8:5-7)

She got up, and they started to pray and beg that deliverance might be theirs. He began with these words: “Blessed are you, O God of our fathers; praised be your name forever and ever. Let the heavens and all your creation praise you forever. You made Adam and you gave him his wife Eve to be his help and support; and from these two the human race descended. You said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; let us make him a partner like himself.’ Now, Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age.”


God’s Call to the Vocation of Marriage

One of the questions priests often get asked in relationship to marriage is “How can a person who has never been married give good advice?” I remember two different priests I had while in two different seminaries talk about this subject. One asked if a doctor needed to have had every disease to be a good doctor. The other was quick to remind those of us in his class that we are all part of a family. We have experienced, good or bad, some element of what married life is or should be. Many priests also have siblings who are married, aunts and uncles whose marriages they’ve experienced, and many friends over the years who give them models of marriage to use a tools for learning.

I think both of the nuggets of wisdom are good to keep in mind. If I were to find out that I have cancer, I would hope that the doctor’s experience of dealing with the disease comes in the form of learning as he has treated others, not that he is on the same path as myself and will likely die just before I do as we go down hill together.  I know many of the struggles of marriage by looking at the marriage my parents had. I’ll admit it was far from perfect. I didn’t realize the learning that was taking place at the time, but looking back the experience gives me some insights that are often not thought about.

As we look at God’s call for the vocation of marriage I think it is important for all of us to realize that we play a part in this call. Some of us may be quick to point out that we are ordained and will not be married. Others might make comments that they had been married and are now widowed or divorced and question what the call to marriage could be about in their own lives. I believe that it is important for all of us to realize what this call is to be about as we strive to grow in holiness. Those who are not married, I encourage you to continue to read through all of this reflection because I have some special comments for you in the course of this talk. (Don’t cheat and try to speed read, soak in the whole message.)

Couples who are married or who expect to be married soon should take special care to follow the example of Tobit and Sarah. Sarah and Tobit, came together and prayed as a couple. I believe that Father Payton used to go around the country stressing the importance of praying the Rosary and left families with these words of advice, “A family that prays together, stays together.” When a couple comes together in marriage, it is a special relationship.  It is a relationship that is meant to model the love that exists between Christ, the bridegroom, and the Church, his bride. We hear St. Paul’s writing about the need for wives to submit to their husbands and for husbands to love their brides just as Christ loves the Church. This is not always an easy task. 


I will often tell couples that are getting married that they are making a commitment to love each other and be true to each other in the good times and bad, in sickness and in health, until death. I am also quick to remind them that this does not mean that they are going to like each other every day. We often hear about the husbands who leave their dirty socks next to the bed or in the living room or where ever they may be when they take those socks off. There are times when the wife picks them up has the thought go through her mind that she would like to teach him a thing or two about socks. At that moment, she may not particularly like her husband. I will tell her that this is the time to show love, doing the right thing even when you do not like the other person. That is a real challenge in married life, but by praying together, you can grow in that love.

Another important part of married life is being open to children. Being open to children means that we look beyond ourselves and our selfish motives to place ourselves in the service of God. I know several people will say that they don’t want many children so they can give the children they do have everything that they need. I sometimes wonder if that is really all that beneficial. Sometimes kids from small families are so used to having everything given to them they never develop a sense taking care of themselves or of serving others. Kids from larger families learn earlier what it is to sacrifice for the benefit of their siblings. The older children actually learn about parenting long before they are married. They realize the expectations of married life and parenthood. The younger children often get the chance to care for their nephews and nieces and get the same experience as their older siblings.

Ok, now for you single people out there. As you look at God’s call to the vocation of marriage, you may realize that you are not called to live out the married life. You do, however, play an important role in the lives of your family and friends who are married. You are to be the source of encouragement and strength for them as they face the difficulties ahead. You are to be prayers for the success of their marriages. You are to be the sounding boards who can listen to their needs and then redirect them to their faith in God and the promises that were made at their wedding. You are also expect to help them as they strive to live out true Christian parenthood.

As we wrap up this talk I’d like to leave everyone with a couple of questions. As you look at your family experience what is prayer like? Do you spend time praying together? If you are younger can you encourage your parents to join in a family prayer? If you are married are you praying together, the whole family? How are you supporting your friends who are married? Do you give them encouragement as they strive to be good Christian role models? Do you ask questions like, “How many more kids are you going to have?” (That was not a good question to ask.)

We need to see the role we each play to make the sacrament what it is meant to be.


Let us Pray,

Holy God, we ask that you help all of us see the value of Christian families. As we strive to live out our calling in life, help us truly show the love that Christ has for all humankind. If we are called to be married, help us be the best spouse that we can be. If we are called to be single, help us to support those who are married and help us to live out your love in our lives. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Lord. Amen


Let us pray,

Loving Father, you call us to serve you in all that we do. You call many of your people to serve your church as priests or religious. We ask that you help your people respond with generosity to this call and that they receive the support and encouragement of their family and friends. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.


From the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (61:1-8)
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, To announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn; To place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem instead of ashes, To give them oil of gladness in place of mourning, a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit. They will be called oaks of justice, planted by the LORD to show his glory. They shall rebuild the ancient ruins, the former wastes they shall raise up And restore the ruined cities, desolate now for generations. Strangers shall stand ready to pasture your flocks, foreigners shall be your farmers and vinedressers. You yourselves shall be named priests of the LORD, ministers of our God you shall be called.



My last talk I spoke a little bit about the vocation of marriage, the love that should be exhibited between a husband and wife and the support that single people should give to married couples. I would like to look at God’s call to priesthood and religious life. Just as I said that single people have a role to play in respect to married life, those who are married have a role to play in supporting those who are called to priesthood or religious life.

I’d like to start by telling you a little about myself. May dad is Catholic, and my mom was not a church goer for the most part. Dad had drifted away from the practice of his faith while in the Air Force, before he ever met my mom. While I was growing up, I usually only attended Mass when Grandma was visiting, or we were visiting her. It wasn’t until the family moved to Forsyth, Montana and I got involved with the Boy Scouts that I started attending Mass regularly. A family in the scout troop volunteered to pick us up and drive us to Mass on Saturday nights. I was a sophomore in high school when I received my first communion.

While growing up, there were several times I thought about being a priest. These times may have been an awareness of the calling God had in store for me. I remember once when I was probably in 5th or 6th grade thinking that it would be neat to be a priest, but realizing that I had to be going to church in order for that to be a reality. Later, while in high school, I had the thought about being a priest, but I realized at the time I did not like the idea of getting up and speaking in front of people. I was also concerned about what my classmates would think if they heard I was thinking about priesthood. I kind pretty much dismissed the idea of priesthood. Perhaps another sign was when I started to apply to college. I had applied to several schools and the first that I heard back from was Regis College in Denver. I told my mom that I had been accepted and that it was a Catholic college. Her first response was that she did not want me going to a Catholic school because she was afraid that I might decide to become a priest or something and that all priests were alcoholics. I ended up going to Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. March 9th , my first year at MSU my mother died.



That summer, the priest who had been the pastor where I went to high school was substituting for the pastor in Bozeman while he was on vacation. He invited myself and another high school classmate of mine to lunch and asked us if we had ever thought about being priests. I said I’d thought about it but gave the excuses about talking in front of people and concern about what my friends would say. He said to keep thinking about it.

I did keep thinking about it and eventually mentioned the idea to my Grandmother. She supported me in my quest. When I finally called my dad and told him I planned to go to the seminary he responded with, “Well, I guess you know what you are doing.” I did go off to finish my college at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon and then did my graduate seminary work at Mundelein Seminary, University of Saint Mary of the Lake outside of Chicago.

I tell you the story about my own call to help others reflect upon a call to priesthood or religious life. Our calls are not always like St. Paul’s where we see a flash of light and find ourselves knocked on our butts. God is calling many people to serve him using the little hints in our lives. For those who are still discerning your vocation, what is God calling you to be? Are you ready to be like Mary and say, “Let it be done unto me according to your word?” or are you more like me, looking for excuses to try to do something else? Sometimes we get past those excuses, but sometimes we just keep adding to them, trying to ignore God’s call. We all need to be open to what God wants us to do with our lives, not what we think might be convenient.

I also share my story to talk a little bit about the support that those being called need to receive. How often do we discourage vocations? Neither of my parents said anything real supportive as I was hearing God’s call. Mom had a stereotype of priesthood that was not true, but she did not have a lot of experience to show her otherwise. I’m not sure what Dad’s initial concern was. As I went off to the seminary he thought it was an ok thing, not that he seemed overly excited about it. He does like to show off his priest-son when he gets the chance.

When I gave my reflection on marriage I commented on the need for all of us to find ways to support married couples. We also need to find ways to support those who are being called to serve the Church as priests or religious. Parents need to encourage their children to think about being a priest, brother or sister. Parishes need to offer public prayer for vocations. People need to speak of the positive things that priests do in their lives so young men can get excited about a possible call to priesthood. We need to expose our kids to religious sisters and brothers so they can see the value of their lifestyles, whether they be apostolic or contemplative.

We realize that we are a Eucharistic people and that we need priests to offer the Eucharist. Let’s pray and work to support those called to serve the church, not only as priests, but those called to religious life as well. You might want to listen to this Catholic Answers Live program to give you some additional insights www2.catholic.com/audio/2006/MP3/ca060213a.mp3


Let us pray,

Holy God, we ask that you continue to call your people to serve you as priests, brothers and sisters. We ask that you give those you call the courage to follow you. Give their family and friends the generosity to support those you have called. Help us all to be open to the ways we can support these vocations. We ask this through Christ, our High Priest. Amen

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.