Prologue toI Went on a Retreat 365 Days in a Row!
The following appears in Tom’s manuscript I Went on a Retreat 365 Days in a Row!
This piece of work will be published by Christian Faith Publishing, Inc. sometime in 2022.
I received a religious retreat from a team of church members that is from the St. Andrew’s Catholic Church (Newtown). This retreat took place at the St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church (Morrisville) in the fall of 2015. The retreat began on a Saturday morning and it finished in the late afternoon on the Sunday of the same weekend. This retreat weekend is called “Welcome” (formerly “Christ Renews His Parish” or CRHP). You can read about this amazing retreat at DynamicCatholic.com/welcome. I do not want to disclose what takes place throughout the retreat weekend, because if you or others choose to attend one of these retreats, knowing any details ahead of time may detract from your or someone else’s personal experience during the time you attend the retreat. Let’s just say that this weekend retreat was one of the most amazing religious experiences I have ever encountered during my lifetime. I recommend that you and others attend one.
Let’s fast-forward to the spring of 2016. Six of my Brothers in Christ, the same ones who received the CRHP retreat with me, and I began the faith formation period necessary to become leaders of the next retreat team who would give a retreat to the next group of men at St. John the Evangelist. This faith formation took place over a several-month period – twice a month in the beginning, and once a week during the two months that preceded the retreat.
At a particular time during the faith formation, the seven of us needed to make a decision about who would give each Witness Talk during the retreat weekend. The Witness Talk themes included: Renewal, New Life in Christ, Spirituality, Christian Community, Christian Awareness, Reconciliation, Eucharist, Scripture, Father’s Loving Care for Us, Discipleship. With ten themes and just seven of us, a few of us would have to give more than one Witness Talk. I would have been okay with preparing to give one or two of the ten talks.
One evening, my Brothers and I were sitting in one of the rooms in the parish office building at St. John the Evangelist working with the St. Andrew’s team that gave the retreat to us. Several members of their team were helping our team with preparing to give a retreat to a new group of church members later in the year. While we were sitting together discussing the details of giving a CRHP retreat, we were asked to spend several minutes thinking about and praying for which Witness Talk we would be responsible for, the preparation for the Talk, and the delivering of the Talk to a group of men who would be receiving the CRHP retreat.
All of us sat in our chairs in silence for several minutes. Try that some time with a group of friends. Sitting in silence for several minutes sometimes feels like an eternity. I contemplated the meaning of each of the Witness Talk themes. Also, I determined which ones resonated most closely with me. I thought about how I would deliver a talk to a group of men receiving this retreat, and I contemplated which themes would be easier for me to explain to others.
After doing all of this, I prayed. I sat there in silence and prayed. I prayed that I would be assigned just one of these Witness Talks. I prayed for one of these Talks in particular. I felt that one of the ten themes was best-suited for me to give a talk to a group of men on a CRHP retreat weekend. It was the one theme that was shouting out to me. It was the one theme that I could relate to. It was the one theme I felt I had been focused on all throughout my life. I felt that my preparation to give a talk on this theme would benefit not only me, but also the men who would be receiving the retreat. I felt that this one theme would help me with reaching out to help many people all throughout the world, and making a positive difference in their lives.
After the silence, each man in our group was given the opportunity to choose which Witness Talk he would want to be responsible for. I sat there in the silence which permeated the room. After this period of silence, I sat there in my own silence. I chose to let the other men pick the theme that best-suited each one of them. I could have chosen first, second, third, or fourth. But, I let the other men pick the theme that would work best for them.
One by one, each theme was taken and crossed off the list. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get the one I was hoping for and praying fervently for during my period of silence. As each theme was picked, the one I truly desired remained on the list. No one was choosing the theme I wanted very dearly. After several minutes, there were just two themes that remained, the one I hoped for and prayed for, and one of the other nine. I let one of my Brothers pick again. He chose the theme that he so desired. It was not the one I had just prayed for.
Wow! Are you kidding me? After all of that, I was able to get the theme that was near and dear to my heart. I wish that you could experience what I experienced in that exact moment when it was determined that I was selected to prepare and give a Witness Talk on Christian Awareness. This was a Holy Spirit moment! I have not had many of these throughout my lifetime. When I have one, it is one of the most amazing feelings I have ever experienced in my life.
These Holy Spirit moments are divine intervention. It is a way in which God communicates with many different people in a variety of ways. The way in which God spoke to me on this day was that I truly felt the Holy Spirit infiltrate my body when I was sitting in that room. It was an overflowing feeling of God’s presence within me. It felt like a tidal wave of love permeating my soul. In that room at a given moment in time, God chose me to do great things for the betterment of others. It was a feeling of overwhelming joy. It was my knowing that God was present in me and He was going to use the Holy Spirit through me to do great things for others in this world. God was going to work through me in order to make a positive difference in the lives of other people and to make our world a better place in so many different ways. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in each one of us. We need to believe that the Holy Spirit can work through each one of us to do great things in this world.
Let me take what happened to me and explain it another way. God is one in three persons. These persons are The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. God the Father is the One who created the Earth, all of its creatures, and each one of us. God the Son is Jesus Christ whom the Father sent to us in the flesh to teach us how to live, and He suffered and died on the cross to save us from our sins so that we can rest with Him in heaven for all eternity. God the Holy Spirit is God living in us to do His will to love God with our hearts, souls and minds and to love each other just as Jesus Christ taught us how to love. He taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
The Holy Spirit was alive and well in me at that very moment when I realized that I was going to prepare and give a Witness Talk on Christian Awareness. This moment would be the beginning of my learning about how God was going to use the Holy Spirit to work through me much more than He had ever done so before this day. Soon after this discernment process, I chose to dedicate my life to Jesus Christ. What does this mean? This means that I was going to take the time to reach out and help others every day for the rest of my life. This book is one of the many ways I am trying to do just that.