Not just another weekend...As Friday evening began, I pulled into Loyola’s driveway, up the curving road into a parking spot in front of the mansion. Arriving at 6:30 wasn’t early and the lot wasn’t quite full yet. I grabbed my overnighter and walked up the steps into the main foyer to register.
My room was on the second level in the East Wing and I went through the dining room, past the kitchen and up the stairs. Room 207 would be home for the next 40 hours. And a sparse home it is, too. A not uncomfortable single bed, easy chair, desk and straight back chair, window, sink, cloths rack and kneeler. (I looked at the kneeler carefully and then decided I wouldn’t use it this year either.) The only other door in the room was open onto the commode shared by the room next to mine. It’s a sparse, narrow little john with a toilet, window, can of air freshener, a mercifully kind working radiator for those cold, dead of night visits, a string activated light bulb, and a rope hanging from a hook on the back of the door to the adjoining room.
I arrived at the dining room at 7:15 for dinner and sat at a table with four men from my parish retreat group. This would be the table I’d likely sit at for all our meals. The room is about 40’ by 50’ with windows across the north and south walls. Tables for eight line the perimeter with a utility table in the middle of the room. It’s a strictly functional place with few distractions other than the food and other retreatants. After brief introductions of all the table mates, we were welcomed by one of the retreat masters who led us in a grace before meals. As dinner was being served, I said a silent prayer of thanks that Lent was over and the menu wouldn’t include fish this Friday night. Fish isn’t one of their better dishes as I’ve found out on prior visits. Food, after all, isn’t the reason for spending a quiet weekend with 85 other men in a creaky, 100 year old mansion being told what to do by Jesuits possibly older than the mansion. When the salmon arrived, I asked for another bread roll and thought the weekend might be good for my diet.
Father Bill Poorten is without doubt one of the kindliest, most gentle souls on God’s earth with a wry sense of humor that makes you glad you get it. His after dinner exhortation is the same each year: the gift we men give to each other this weekend is our silence. In return, God will give us the gift of understanding, faith and love. First timers can’t yet appreciate how wonderful is the experience of silence in the house for the next 36 hours. As we file out of the dining room to walk through the mansion to St. Katherine’s chapel and our first reflection of the four that Father Charlie has put together for our consideration this weekend, I think to myself that it’s good to be back, that I really need this time to be alone with my Lord and to let him talk to me about what he wants me to do.
Loyola Retreat 2008
On April 4, St. Rose men began their retreat at Loyola House of Retreats, a Jesuit facility in Morristown. John Kennedy and Dave Hughes have been the promoters of this spiritual weekend for many years. Consider spending 40 hours with the Lord and your fellow parishioners. Dave and John can give you all the details for next year.