I just got back from my discernment camp, or retreat (whatever you want to call it), at St.
Francis de Sales Seminary. However, I was so exhausted that I could not post anything until today, and what a fitting day to post. Today, we celebrate the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. These courageous and holy saints earned their crowns in the first persecution against the Church, begun by the Emperor Nero after the burning of Rome in 64 A.D. The Martyrs sacrificed themselves, gave of themselves completely, and died to self to live for God. As I reflect on our retreat lectures, I realize in the same way the priest sacrifices himself on the Altar with the Blessed Sacrament as he says the Mass. Likewise, the priest gives of himself completely in his work in the parish, or the monastery, or the classroom, or in the missions, or what ever else his vows prescribe. At his ordination, when he prostrates himself before the Altar, He dies to himself in order to live completely for God. In Persona Christi, the Priesthood is a living Martyrdom.
On to my experiences at the Camp/Retreat. Many will be fondly cherished. One such memory was the service project at the St. Ann’s Center. We hiked from the Seminary to the St. Ann’s Center cracking jokes, singing and doing other boy stuff (i.e. climbing trees, playing with sticks ….). When we arrived at our destination, we were split up into groups and sent to different units. One group went to the nursery, another went to the elderly, another to the mentally disabled. Still another group went to the children’s day care. My group, consisting of myself and two other guys, went to the Alzheimer’s and dementia unit. This was personally meaningful, as about seven years ago my Grandma died of Alzheimer’s. When we arrived at our unit, we played bingo and watched “Charlotte’s Web” with the patients. After we finished, we took the patients for a walk around the building. Each one of us was paired up with a patient to assist on the walk. The patient I was paired with was an older man. He looked very Jewish, he said almost nothing and although I could see that his memory was definitely clouded, he was at peace. As we walked along, I couldn’t help but noticing just how much he looked like God. God walking with me in blue jeans and a white polo shirt. When we passed a sign saying “aquatic center” he turned to and with great difficulty said “I went swimming yesterday.” I, unsure how to reply, simply said “really, was it fun?” and again- with great difficulty- he responded “yes.” These words were all we said to each other and yet they spoke more than volumes. This was more than a conversation about a dip in the pool, this was a conversation with God, for He says “Whatever you did to the least of my brethren, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40). On our hike back to the Seminary, instead of cracking jokes, we talked about our experiences serving God in the “least of His Brethren.”
Just A Note
Yesterday was Father Cyril Gusse’s 80th Birthday. If you are going to Holy Hill this week, ask to see him and wish him a Happy Birthday. Thank you!!