Over the past few weeks much of my focus has been on where I’m going. I’m going to Triangle, VA for my summer assignment. I’m going on a road trip across the country. I may or may not be going somewhere outside of the country at the end of the summer… My focus has been almost exclusively on the future, on things that will or may happen.
Before all that happens, though, I need to take some time to focus on what has actually happened throughout this year. That’s right, it’s time for the annual “Retreat to Move Forward” (kudos to anyone who gets the reference). Starting this afternoon and going until Thursday, the temporary professed friars of Holy Name college will be resting, praying, and reflecting together at the Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center in Marriotsville, MD.
A vehicle for completing our year end self-evaluations, the retreat will be self-directed and focus on six categories: Life with God, Fraternal Life, The Vowed Life, Personal Growth and Self-Understanding, Work, and Vision. Each morning/afternoon, we will be given roughly two hours to privately pray, reflect, and answer a series of questions related to each category. (For example, how and in what ways have you contributed to the fraternal life of the friary?) After enough time has been given, because so much of our life as Franciscans is fraternal, we will then come together to reflect as a group. This serves two important purposes: 1) For the extroverts especially, it is good to process one’s thoughts out loud and to hear affirmation or feedback from the ones who know us best, and 2) our identity is more than just individual and so time needs to be given to reflect on how we have lived up to this life together, not just how I have by myself. How have we as a whole house fostered a life-giving fraternity? Supported one another in our vows? Progressed in the way we treat one another? As much as personal growth is important, when one plans on living the rest of his life together with others, communal growth has to be equally evaluated. While I foresee the possibility of these conversations being a bit tedious, even contentious, I think coming together to reflect as one is arguably the most important part of this retreat and our life together.
What’s also significant about this retreat is that it is a point of transition: last year is over, summer is about to begin. When our time is complete on Thursday, we will drive back to Holy Name college and go our separate ways. Some will go to summer assignment right away; a few will take a few days of vacation; I will be on my way to California. But it’s more than just a transition for summer plans. Because our house is highly transient, many of the guys will be transitioning to the next stage of their formation and will not return in the fall. This year, Ramon, George, and John will all be heading out for a year internship in the province with John being the only planning to return for more school. In this very real way, then, this retreat marks the end of our lives together, at least in this context. The fraternity that we knew this year is coming to an end and a new one will have to be built in the fall with the arrival of a new class. This is of course bittersweet, and my hope is that we may take joy in the time we have with one another this week.
Overall, I’m really looking forward to the week. I could really use some time to put away the computer, turn off the phone, and spend quality (QUIET!) time with my God and my brothers. So much of our lives is spent looking to what may or may not happen that we miss what has and is happening right now. It may seem obvious, but there is no future without the present, and there is no use planning what is ahead if we’ve forgotten where we’ve been.
If you have any prayer requests send them to me before 3:00 today and you will be in my prayers all week.