Fr. Tom’s Letters

 

Each week Fr. Tom writes a letter to parishioners in our bulletin.  Every letter is comprehensive, including current information about the Parish, an explanation of Scripture for that Sunday, and an invitation to become more engaged in the faith life of our Parish.

 

 

 

 

March 26, 2017

Dear Parishioners,

Up here in Gloucester, Massachusetts on Monday afternoon, the temperature has finally fully cleared the freezing mark, the ocean winds have subsided, and the skies have cleared.  Still, the view from the window in my retreat bedroom shows an ocean with high waves crashing against the rocks here at Eastern Point Retreat House where I have spent the past seven days.  How grateful I am to Fr. Rudy for his generosity in assuming all the priestly pastoral duties in the parish these past seven days and to all the parish staff for all the ministries that serve in so many ways at St. Anne’s.  One of the opening themes of this retreat was gratitude and I am so grateful to God for all the parishioners and people who make up St. Anne’s.  We are very blessed.

St. Ignatius crafted the Spiritual Exercises that are the inspiration for the retreats here at Eastern Point, Gloucester. Ignatius directs that we always be clear about what we are asking for in prayer.  I left St. Anne’s for this retreat seeking Rest, Silence, and Prayer.  God granted me all three gifts.  I went to bed early each night, often before nine o’clock.  Yet, God I find often speaks to me at night so the sleep was often interrupted by both God and howling wind and ocean outside.  Silence is the rule at this retreat house.  All 25 retreatants understand and accept that we will be silent with one another, including at all meals.  Silence is broken only by a morning conversation with a spiritual director and by the daily celebration of Mass.  Most especially during this retreat, I learned about prayer.  There are many kinds of prayer and ways to pray.  This retreat was as much as listening for God as it was for saying prayers.  The kind of prayer for this retreat was about opening my heart, mind, and soul to God and allowing God to do the talking.  This kind of prayer is not so much about what we do, but about what God does.  When we give God the time and silence, God finds ways to speak to us.

The Transfiguration story was the gospel reading on the Sunday before I left for the retreat.  This was a wonderful gospel to introduce me to retreat mode.  Jesus took Peter, James, and John up the mountain and revealed something of himself to them they have previously never experienced.  During this special time with Jesus, these disciples are given the directions to listen, rise, and be silent.  The Transfiguration set the stage for these days of retreat.

Part of the retreat is to share with the spiritual director what happened in prayer the prior day.  Then the director and retreatant will determine together what part of scripture might be helpful to the retreatant as the days progress. 

The parable of the Good Samaritan, the parable of the Prodigal Son, the Gethsemane story of Jesus praying in the garden, and the story of Emmaus and the resurrected Jesus all were gospels that directed my prayer during these days.

Once the retreatant settles into the silence, the retreat days flow very easily into one another.  In addition, nights and days have a real continuity.  One particular night my sleep was fitful and unsettled.  Disturbing dreams interrupted any sense of rest.  And then lying awake, around 3:00AM, a little frustrated, the Lord gave me a gift that gave great meaning to the day and night.  He reminded me of my last conversation with Det. Steven McDonald after he spoke here to our Confirmation candidates on December 14, just a month here before his sudden death.  I have shared this story with you.  When I remarked to Steven that night how strong he seemed in terms of his voice and presentation, Steven quickly responded, “Father, what did you expect?  I pray everyday.”  The gifts of that conversation and the Lord bringing me to remember that conversation in those pre-dawn hours, struggling to sleep, gave me great understanding and insight.

The retreat was a very good experience for me as it always is.  Although we attend daily Mass, priests do not concelebrate as is the Jesuit custom at Eastern Point.  I miss our daily Mass at St. Anne’s.  Re-entry after retreat is always a challenge.  The patterns and learnings of the retreat are pleasing, soothing, and encouraging.  Putting them into practice as part of my daily routine at home is difficult.  Of course, modern technology, particularly the smart phones are a challenge.  I struggle to understand why on a silent retreat a person would bring their cell phone out and start to scroll through.  In the communal silence, we find encouragement and support in one another’s silence.  The cell phone presence violates that.  And yet looking up the weather, reading e-mails, checking the news, reading about the Mets, Pope Francis, Long Island news and national news were all stumbling blocks for me in keeping the spirit of the silence.  After the second day with frustration mounting, I put my cell phone in the car.  It worked.  The spectacular nature of Eastern Point, the reflection on scripture, and God sharing his love all triumphed over anything the cell phone or other forms of technology could offer.

Lent was a great time for retreat.  Usually, I go in January, but this was a great time.  I’ll be looking to go next year during Lent.

As I write to you on this last night of retreat; I look forward to one of my concluding exercises for retreat reading the Pastoral Prayer of Aelred of Rievaulx, a twelfth century monk.  In this Pastoral Prayer, the abbot prays for the monks entrusted to his care.  The prayer was given to me several years ago by one of the Jesuits here.  He recommended it as an excellent prayer for a parish pastor.  I will pray it this evening with the people of St. Anne in my mind, heart, and soul.

Peace be to you.

Fr. Tom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The letters are available in PDF and require Adobe Reader to view.  If you do not have Adobe Reader, you can download it for FREE by clicking the graphic to the right.