Last Friday the faculty and staff held our annual retreat at the Monastery of the Contemplatives of Saint Joseph in South San Francisco. The morning started with us all gathering in the kitchen and we shared coffee and donuts before our first “session.” Father Vito started by giving us a brief history of the COSJs and explaining their mission. I’d been to the monastery several times but for many of us this was a first visit. Although the home is simple, there is some elegant religious artwork, including a beautiful statue of “Sleeping Joseph” that was given to the COSJs by our own preschool faculty.
Brother Chris (one of the COSJs) then lead us in an activity called Lectio Divina, which is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s Word. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word. Though it is suggested for groups of 6 to 8 people, the twenty of us truly appreciated the experience. It was both thought provoking and rewarding. We focused the exercise on Matthew, Chapter 15, “You are the light of the world…” and were able to share our hopes and fears as one group of dedicated Catholic educators.
Before lunch we celebrated Mass with Father Vito. I know this will sound weird, but in one way; Mass is very much like a major sporting event. It’s great to be at the arena with 20,000 other excited fans, but it’s also incredible to be at home with just a few intimate friends. Having Father Vito celebrate Mass for the faculty and staff was very special. I do not think the homily was meant to be interactive but when everyone in the group knows each other so well, there were a few moments that we actually chipped in a few thoughts during the sermon.
After a great lunch, made even more delicious by the fact that none of us had to be outside on yard duty or jump up and run to class when the bell rang, Father Joseph (another member of the COSJs) then shared a story with us about those times when we struggle with life. We may feel that we have lost our way but it is precisely those moments when we must recommit ourselves to our faith. It’s very much like a friendship. There are times when we just don’t “feel the love” and we might be tempted to give up on the relationship. But as we know mature love may start with a feeling but it grows stronger through perseverance and commitment.
Toward the end of the day Father Vito and his COSJ brothers shared with us their custom of chanting. I must admit that though I was a pre-Vatican II baby, I remembered very little Latin. But the chanting was beautiful and a very relaxing way to end the day.
I know that my life gets way too busy at times and I get caught up in the rush, perhaps that is why I enjoyed the retreat so much. I encourage you to look for an opportunity to get away from the hectic pace once in a while and consider going on a retreat.