The Deacon's Bench

A few people have asked me how my retreat went last weekend.

Very well, thank you. It was probably the most restful 48 hours I’ve had since ordination — and the first time I’ve had two consecutive days off since then, too. For the uninitiated: deacons are almost genetically pre-disposed to overwork; we have a hard time saying no, and are constantly under foot, trying to help someone, somewhere, whether it’s assisting at an extra mass — or two or three — or filling in at a wake or happily obliging a neighbor and doing a house blessing at the spur of the moment. We’re so helpful, we’re actually beyond help. We work five days a week, then spend the sixth day rewriting the homily for Sunday — that is, when we aren’t carpooling the kids to soccer practice or picking up the dry cleaning or taking the cat to the vet for a furball treatment — and then we spend all day Sunday in an alb at church, either in the sacristy or in the sanctuary or in the pulpit or in the basement, teaching about RCIA or baptism.

There should be a deacon 12-step program.

Anyway, it was a pleasure to spend a couple days rubbing elbows with other deacons at this Passionist retreat house, pictured below.

The accomodations, as you can see, were deluxe.

There was a beautiful little chapel where we had mass, Benediction, and prayers at morning and evening.

The food was very good, the presentations (on the theme of “Evangelization”) by Fr. Gerald Fitzsimmons, SMM, were simultaneously uplifting and down-to-earth, and the whole experience was, like the window below, dappled with grace.

But it’s not over yet. I consider this past weekend just an appetizer. I’m attending a day of prayer given by Fr. Fitzsimmons this weekend and in a couple weeks, for All Saints Day, will be heading south, to Georgia, for the main course: four days among the Trappists at the gorgeous Monastery of the Holy Spirit. It will be a kind of spiritual homecoming for me; the abbey is where my vocation was born, nearly six years ago, and this will be my first trip back since ordination.

I suspect I will be spending a good part of my time there in wonder and disbelief and joy, with two words sealed across my smiling lips: “Thank you.”

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