01-07-2009 - Traces, n. 7

new world
medconference 2009

Contemplate, and Share the Fruit
The Annual CL Priest Retreat continues to grow in size and has become a multi-national event, where priests gather for companionship so that they can go forth to bear fruit in their ministries. Preparing to enter the Year of the Priest 2009.

by Fr. John C. Garrett

One of the lessons that I took away from my brief time as a novice with the Dominicans was their motto: “Contemplate, and share the fruit of your contemplation.”  What drew 50 priests, including one archbishop, to Malvern, PA, for several days of contemplation at the annual spring Priests’ Retreat sponsored by Communion and Liberation?  Certainly it was much more than the canonical requirement that priests make a yearly retreat. Fr. Tufaro, of Stamford, CT, had been given Msgr. Albacete’s Priest Retreat addresses by his friend Fr. Peter Cameron, and he “resonated with his unabashed presentation of the Incarnational life.”  Fr. John O’Connor, who came all the way from Christchurch, New Zealand, said that he had read several of Msgr. Giussani’s works as well as Traces magazine, and he “wanted to hear more, and to meet other priests who had been moved by the same attraction.”
This past spring, on the cusp of Pope Benedict XVI’s initiation of the Year for Priests begun in June, Msgr. Albacete used two texts as the basis of his talks:  The Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI given to the Collège des Bernardins, in Paris, on September 12, 2008, and “Something that Comes Before,” notes from a talk by Luigi Giussani from the Assembly of CL Responsibles in 1993.  Msgr. Albacete told the gathered priests that “without the Resurrection, nothing makes sense.”  The Resurrection not only defines the content of our faith, but it defines our very lives.  It is in the light of the Resurrection that we become aware of our existing, and with that awareness. comes our awareness of the Mystery
Fr. Tufaro noticed at times a gap between his life as a priest and his life as a human being.  He found Msgr. Albacete’s reflection that our first vocation is the call “to be a human being” liberating, and something that creates the possibility for experiencing community.  Archbishop Prendergast of Ottawa, Canada, values Giussani’s belief that the quest for happiness is what unites all of us as human beings, and our encounter with Christ frees us for true happiness, for He is “the One who is Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.” 

Through circumstances. Fr. Lee Fangmeyer of Derwood, MD, was particularly moved by the emphasis on the reality of the Resurrection.  An annual attendee, this year he came with a heavy heart because his best friend, Fr. Bill Finch, had just died on Holy Thursday.  Fr. Lee said that, instinctively, he wanted to allow his grief to take over, but the coincidence of having to celebrate the Passion and Resurrection made him ask Christ for understanding of the Resurrection in light of his recent loss.  After preaching at his friend’s funeral, Fr. Lee joined the retreat. In less than 48 hours, he encountered a sign of Christ’s love for him–through the synthesis by Msgr. Albacete. Monsignor said that Jesus seduces us through the circumstances of life, and not always through attractive things, as seen in the Old Testament, where God says that He will take us into the desert to seduce us.  Fr. Lee recognized God’s action in his own life: “In the face of nothingness, the loss of a loved one, He came.  I did not even want to look for Him at times, but in His mercy I really had no choice.  Thank God.  It is true that nothing cancels Him out.”

A new horizon.  I came back from my first CL Priests’ Retreat, three years ago, to a staff eager to know what had happened because I had a new zeal and joy in living–the fruits were obvious and I was asked immediately to share them in my parish.  This year again, back in our ministries for a couple of months after the retreat, we reflect on and share the fruit being born.  Fr. Lee reports, “Now, as I face my everyday circumstances, I am sure that it is He who is seducing me, whatever the circumstances are.”  Fr. John from New Zealand noted that the retreat validated his experience that “Christ’s encounter with me is constantly expanding my horizons and clarifying my direction.”  He also reports returning home strengthened by the company of priests he met on the retreat, and “grateful that God continues to provide all that I need to live as a happy, healthy man and priest.  The retreat experience opened a new horizon of faith as I realized anew the reality that the Word of God has become flesh, and lives among us today.”  Archbishop Prendergast said that the retreat reminded him of the centrality of prayer as the grounds of his ministry, “particularly that aspect of prayer that nurtures union with our Risen Lord and puts me in touch with the aspiration of His Sacred Heart.”  The Archbishop also reports that he took from the retreat an enthusiasm for the Movement and School of Community, “as a way of sharing with others the encounter, and an ongoing relationship, with our Risen Lord.”