Throughout college, I was active in the Catholic community we have at Boston University. I maintain that it was the best part of my collegiate experience. I learned how to pray, reflect intently on my life, and live with true joy. More than anything else, the BUCC shaped me into the guy I have become. And out of all the offered programming there, the semesterly retreats had the biggest impact on me.
In the Catholic world, a retreat is a time of reflection, prayer, and contemplation. It’s a time when you leave home, get away from your life, and follow the Spirit to see where God is calling you in a much different setting than normal. While in college, there was one retreat each semester. I went on all eight undergrad retreats I was eligible for. They all meant something to me and affected me in some way. My freshman retreats sparked my faith to life. Sophomore year’s Autumn confirmed I was on the right path and the spring let me work on a retreat, so I saw the behind the scenes stuff. Junior year comforted and consoled me through some difficult times. And senior year closed out college with a bang.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do anymore retreats like those after college. They’re special experiences and only happen so often. I stayed around BU this year. I still have friends in undergrad at BU and I got more into the graduate student and young professional group that’s just getting its footing within the community again. We had talked about doing retreats for our segment of the CC, but I wasn’t sure that it would happen. I went to SEEK in San Antonio in January and figured that would be my retreat. I loved it! I was content that God had given me the needed lessons and retreat experience that I hadn’t had in almost a year. Thank God I was wrong about that.
At the end of January, a friend in the BU Grad Group told me about the retreat being discussed and asked if I wanted to help make it happen. Without thinking about the timing of it or considering too much, I said yes. It seemed like I shouldn’t pass on the opportunity to do it and I’m so happy I did. By fortunate timing, the retreat fell on the weekend between the NCAA Regional tournaments in Manchester and Providence, both of which I covered, and the Frozen Four in Chicago, where I will be starting on Tuesday. I didn’t think about that scheduling when I said yes but thank God He did.
We got to discussing the theme, title, structure, schedule, and we went to work. We didn’t have an existing framework for prior Grad Group retreats, so we took a beat from the undergrad retreats we were familiar with and crafted our own formula. It took months of planning, promotion, praying, and processing to make it all happen. And when the weekend arrived with the snow, sleet, rain, and everything else that happens in winter and not on April 1st, we were ready to go.
We went to Acton Mass and went Into the Desert for the weekend. It was awesome. The priest who gave the talks was perfect, the witnesses were phenomenal, the meditations worked well(so I was told after leading the first one and experienced the second), and the time in adoration and confession was nothing short of amazing. I barely slept over the weekend, in part because we slept in sleeping bags on the floors of a classroom in the basement of the church and because my sleep spot was right next to the door, but that didn’t matter much. The weekend was just such an awesome time that I didn’t care exactly when stuff happened or how rested I was. I ran on the Holy Spirit for energy all weekend. I completely crashed when I got home, but oh well. It was needed.
I can add this to the expanding memory bank of incredible moments made possible through the BUCC community. The retreat to St. Elizabeth of Hungary parish was lovely. The snow made things annoying at times and cold, but that was alright. The simple yet deep programming worked better than we hoped it would. And the healthy parish community at St. Elizabeth’s made things better. The working infrastructure at the church made our event possible and reminded us that there is life after college.
Many of us come from parishes that are older and low in people our age. St. Elizabeth’s has plenty of families with young parents, teenagers, active high schoolers, and adorable children in addition to the older crowd. It’s good to know that churches like this one exist and that they can be formed in today’s world.
It’s also good to be reminded that God guides us through our deserts and makes good from them. We spent the retreat focusing on spiritual dryness and anything that resembles a desert in the spiritual life. I haven’t processed everything that God showed me yet and I will continue working through my time in the talks, witnesses, discussions, meditations, Masses, and everything else that happened. What I have processed is a reminder of God’s love for me, a purpose for my spiritual battles in recent years, and reassurance that I’m in the right career.
Retreats have always served as a time for me to reset and refresh. This weekend didn’t physically do either of those; I went home physically exhausted. I fell asleep at 4, woke up at 7, then fell back asleep until 5am. I was rested after that night’s sleep though! Spiritually though, I feel more alive than I have in a while. I reconnected with people I hadn’t seen in a while, met new people, and was reminded of God’s presence throughout my life. It was exactly what I needed. I can say that about every single retreat I’ve been on. I’ve got more to learn from what happened this weekend, but I know I got plenty out of it for now.
I’m thankful I had the best crew possible to work with on this weekend. The Desert isn’t as bad a place as people make it out to be.