Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Reflection: March 8 -10 Retreat with the Newman Center at U of Toronto

Hello Everyone.

I guess you could say that this is a bit "Off the Beaten Path" as I usually call things that are only distantly or not at all related to what I usually post on S.U.D. However, I don't think this posts merits OTBP. It merits more.

Some of you who are frequent readers of this blog, or have been searching for the Newman Center at University of Toronto, might have remembered back in the new year I posted on the center in defense of my colleagues and friends with regard to them starting a Courage group. This post, will focus on a different aspect of their coverage: Their retreats for the young adults of the diocese of Toronto/University community.

This past weekend, March 8-10, I had the pleasure to get unpaid leave from work, and to attend a get-away retreat up in Port Colborne at Jericho House. This little retreat center, surrounded by wonderful Canadian forest trails and near Lake Erie, has been constructed fairly recently and combines a number of elements in its design of notice. You may examine it here at http://www.jerichohouse.org/ though as a warning, those of you who are on the far right side of traditional Catholicism, might end up ready to spear me for making you go there because some of the buzzwords you fear pop up. Just keep your thoughts to yourself, thank you.

In addition to being staffed by religious lay brothers and sisters, for one, at least my room, and likely others, had a shower in the bathroom that was wide with a bench in it, and not an enclosed cubicle with a step or barrier to get over. This is to accommodate senior or physically in-firmed retreatants (e.g. wheel-chair bound), a great extension of Catholic charity to the sick and in-firmed  In addition, there was a small office-cubicle size room that serves as the chapel. Inside of the chapel is the Blessed Sacrament on a table/pedestal in a modern designed, but small wooden, cube-shaped tabernacle with a candle and a Bible on a stand. When it comes to being up close and personal with our Lord, it does not get better than this (save Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction). And it's open 24-7! I must say I did take advantage of that chapel a couple of times, and it wasn't just me. On the Saturday morning, I even was able to squeeze in with a young couple who was saying the post-Vatican II Morning Office (not the Shorter Christian Prayer, we're talking 1 of the 4 full size books that clergy/religious read!). It was very warm to my heart to see myself and others, single or in a relationship, take full advantage of the chapel with Our Lord in the Tabernacle.

Now, I was quite excited to start off going on this retreat, because I was going to be with two of my closest Catholic friends from the Newman Center (who also run in similar circles with other friends). I'll say that, I got a lot more than I bargained for.

Friday Night March 8
The bus ride itself was somewhat interesting going up. Throughout the duration going up, there came about with me discussions with new students about their time at U of T/Newman, their experiences in the Christianity and Culture Program, and one particular young woman even engaged me when I mentioned my current job as a clerical clerk in labour and delivery at a downtown hospital (and my certification for laboratory testing). She asking me about the difficulty in carrying out my faith in a health care setting, along with some chiming in from another retreatant about what the drug Misoprostol is (dare I say it), with regard to abortions (short answer: contractions to expel the "contents/products of conception" out of the uterus). There was even a short 20 minute dinner stop along the way, where all the Lenten No-meat-on-Friday kids went crazy for meat and broke their sacrifices ... Just kidding ... well save one person .... :). At least now I know of her insatiable addiction for Wendy's(TM) Baconators and how to get her attention ...

When we arrived at the center, the main space was set up, ready to go. Half of the Newman team was already at the center, including the head of Student Chapliancy, Josh Canning, and the awesome priest governing the center through everything this year, Fr. Chris Cauchi. To get us in the mood for the retreat, the music ministry team started us off with praise and worship. Yes ... that music. Maybe I did one song to start off with but I wasn't really singing that stuff at this point, with my ``trad alert`` mode active in my mind.

Afterwards, the first talk was given by a well-known speaker acting in the archdiocese, Cale Clarke, who heads his own Catholic speaking initiative, www.thefaithexplained.com/. He is also a pastoral associate at St. Justin Martyr, Unionville. Cale was invited to be the retreat's main speaker on the topic of Theology of the Body. This night's talk was more of a set up to the next day, giving background information on the inspiration behind John Paul II's phenomenal work on sex and relationships and vocations. Afterwards, it was social time. While hanging out in the games room (with two ping pong tables and a gettoni/foosball table), a number of us were engaging in conversations with each other on numerous topics, including the ongoing Conclave. As for me, I got the shocker of my night (and, well the retreat) when that intelligent young woman who picked my brain about my career(s), well, I can't remember how we initiated conversation, but eventually I got to the Latin Mass ... and to my surprise, I found a like minded soul. I couldn't believe this, but she clearly understands where I'm coming from spiritually and she even enjoys the Latin Mass! This blew me to bits. Someone, outside of my best male friend, and those of the Latin Mass communities, understands me and the Latin Mass ... (Big smile on my face on the inside...)

Saturday March 9
This was the biggest day of the Retreat. Much was planned outside of the main meals, including mid-day Mass, more of the talks, a scavenger hunt with  some recreation time, and a capstone in the evening. After breakfast was an ice-breaker game, and then the second of the two talks for the TOB, where the focus was on the meaning of ``vocation`` with marriage.

Talk 2 - Morning
After giving us some Scriptural Background about marriage in the Bible as well as the Creation Story (following along John Paul`s 3 key areas of the TOB), of the most important points of the talk that hit me were brought up with regard to pornography:

  • Pornography takes from the viewer and participants, willing the death of their soul. Women become mere objects. 
  • Elementary school kids now are becoming exposed to pornography (much thanks to the Internet). It`s not just finding dad or uncle Jimmy`s stash of magazines with the bunny on it anymore. Worse, they are even talking about their escapades and what they see with each other. 
  • Only Christ can set us free from the grips of Pornography. He is the new Adam that succeeded where he failed. 
Really? A retreat in a Novus Ordo culture with praise and worship, and we are getting smacked in the face with grim evils of pornography? Who would have thought that!

Mass occurred in the Novus Ordo form of the Roman rite with Fr. Cauchi being the celebrant. Two of the retreatants were picked as lectors, and one of the Newman students club members was the altar server. Interesting to note, she proceeded with her hands in the orans position in the entrance and exit procession and bowed with the priest upon arrival and exit to/from the altar. While I forget the duration of the homily, I do know that the Sacrament of Reconciliation was encouraged. Further, Fr. Cauchi talked about the powerful witness to the Catholic Faith of a male Saint in World War II, Fr. Maximillian Kolbe,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximilian_Kolbe. This was an excellent example that tied well together with the retreat. Aside from being part of a sex-segregated talk for the male retreatants, it also reinforced the wholeness and sacrifice needed, both to the witness of the faith, but also from the perspective of the  prisoner, whose place Fr. Kolbe took in Auschwitz in a literal decimation of those in his cell block for punishment of three escapees from the camp. See, Fr. Kolbe purposely took the place of this prisoner, hearing his cries for his wife and family. This man was so devoted to his family, and scared of leaving them. That's how much he loved his family and was committed to them. Fr. Kolbe, hearing this, offered himself up, stating he was an old Polish Catholic priest. Even the ruthless and unmerciful commander Fritzch, took a moment of pause and actually relented and accepted the switch. What this meant was to show all of us about sacrifice for the faith, as well as total commitment to the vocations of both ordained and married life, and in general, Catholic life. Be ready and willing to sacrifice yourself for the faith.

Shortly afterward was our next meal, a scavenger hunt, and a couple hours free time, and then we were split into sex-segregated groups for discussion lead by the Newman Retreat teams. These talks were to focus on the saints of St. Maxmillian Kolbe and St. Kateri Katwaitha, their devotion to their faith, but most importantly, their martyrdom and sacrifice. Likewise, we will be called to do the same in our Catholic faith, both vocation-wise, and as witness to the Lord (possibly, even a white or "red" martyrdom with the way the world is going). We then had the next talk by Cale.

Talk 3: Vocations 1 - Theology of the Body
Of the major points I got out of this talk, 

  • One should treat their vocation with absolute love, like that of Christ. Christ's love for his bride is wholly faithful and truthful. His love for us is freely given. 
  • During the Mass, this ultimate love is exemplified in the consecration of the Eucharist and Blood. For the Eucharist, it is the pivotal moment, when the priest says, "This is MY Body" or in Latin "Hoc Est Meim Corpus". By the way, Cale used the Latin phrase in the talk. 
  • Vocations are where our happiness is found. A Vocation is a particular way to love in the image of God. The Vocation, be it marriage, priesthood, or consecrated singlehood/a single life devoted to Christ is how we carry this out. 
  • The vocation of the priesthood is viewed generally by people, even "catholics" as "not natural." It should be viewed as "supernatural". 
  • The Mass, regardless of rite or form, is HEAVEN ON EARTH!!!! It is such a Mortal Sin to Miss Mass (That's right, Cale said it was a Mortal Sin. No joke.) It is a foretaste of heaven, the eternal wedding banquet. An analogy is when a married couple go to the hall to sample the full menu for their reception. 
  • This is a big one: Both marriage and Holy Orders depend on each other. When we fail to have families and be fruitful and multiply in a loving, practicing Catholic home, we do not have young men who will fulfill the vocation to the Priesthood. Likewise, should our Holy Priests FAIL in their governance of us, not practice true teaching of the faith and spiritually nourish us, there will be no vocations generated out of their lack of spiritual rearing. In addition, the family is the "domestic Church" which teaches the child to learn how to love [editorial note: not to mention prepares them for wider service for the Institutional and True Catholic Church)

I'd tell you the rest, but it would spoil you in case you get the chance to hear Cale Talk on TOB in future. He's even got some cool apologetics from Scripture with regard to vocations. Dinner was served, followed by the final talk of the retreat.

Talk 4 - Vocations 2/Contraception's violation of the Vocation of marriage
The take home points (or stuff I liked):

  • People sadly misunderstand what marriage means as a Sacrament in the Church. They think that God guarantees the marital relationship in marriage. This is wrong. The Sacrament is what provides spiritual tools (graces) to achieve the relationship, but the couple must utilize these tools and be receptive to graces from the Sacrament. 
  • Contraception is not just the pill we are used to. It also includes many other types of products, chemical, barriers, even medical procedures like hystorectomies (for non-medical reasons) and vasectomies. 
  • The Sin of Onan is in Genesis 38:8-10. He was basically the oldest example of the ``withdraw`` method, that is, taking your member out before ejaculation and spewing the contents elsewhere [editorial note: God killed him. He takes offenses against life pretty seriously eh?]
  • Contraceptive chemicals are contained in the Bible. Revelations 21 initially has "sorcerers" who will go to Hell with others, including fornicators in the NRSV-CE translation of the Bible. The "magic arts" of sorcerers concerns potion making, and the Greek work for "magic" is pharmacia. Pharmacies take that as the root word. They made abortificients/sterility potions. 
  • Contraception doesn't abort the baby or kill it, it changes the hormonal balance (and thus uterine lining) to prevent implantation in the uterus or gamete conception. It does NOT 100% guarantee a birth will be prevented. Further, numerous side effects/complications can occur in women, such as noted increases in breast and cervical cancers, strokes, blood clots, embolisms (from clots), increased depression and weight gain, even permanent sterility, and in rare cases, death. 
  • Cale referenced the "dreaded" encyclical of Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, which hammers at abortion and contraception, and the four consequences he warned about which would follow  widespread use. Go see the encyclical HERE!
  • Contraception is sexual bulimia. 

Wow. A couple of people in the audience knew about this already because they work with pro-life organizations, but this was mostly new to me, and likely everyone else.

After this talk, we had one of the most beautiful and solemn devotions of the Faith outside of the Mass: Eucharistic Adoration. Fr. Cauchi and a visiting priest came to administer the Sacrament of reconciliation, as well as give spiritual counselling when needed. I say when needed, because the combination of the actual adoration in front of our Lord, and the prior talks and events of the retreat, had stirred up emotions and spiritual issues in some of the participants. Some of them needed quite a bit of time with our reverend Fathers, which in my opinion, is a good sign of the Sacrament of Reconciliation combined with being present with our Lord. Some sins/issues are deeper than others.

Regardless it was truly a blessing to see us collectively taking deep stock of ourselves, whether it be on the issues of the retreat, or others in our lives/our sins, and pouring ourselves/our concerns  out to the Lord, be it tears, or our vocal and mental prayers. Overall, more lower key/tempo selections of the praise and worship music team were selected for this occasion, interspersed with silence, to accommodate everyone so they may maximally devote themselves to our Lord (e.g. some people are introspective, and thinkers, who value silence to pray with our Lord [like me, an ISTJ according to Meyers-Briggs,] others value emotional and extroverted actions and feelings and pray via the P&W songs to commune with the Lord [that would be E_F_'s in Myers-Briggs].) Regardless, this was something that could only be witnessed if you were there .... 48 young adults worshiping our Lord in front of the Blessed Sacrament. But before you launch the "trad" cannon of detraction at the choice of accompanying music, do not fret. The traditional worship hymns such as Tantum Ergo, O Salutaris Hostia, Holy God we Praise Thy Name, and the Divine Praises, were part of the Adoration & Benedictions, as traditionally sung and said.  

Sunday March 10
The rest of the day as followed:

  • Wake up, Breakfast
  • Reflections on our retreat with the Newman Center
  • Sunday Morning Obligation Mass, where I, and my friend (that young intellectual) were lectors for the Mass. Another thing to mention, a number of us, dressed up for it. Not necessarily a suit and tie, but we were not wearing our pajamas or casuals. Josh Canning even wore a tie :). I did, and so did my friend, and even my roommates.  
  • Lunch
  • Bus ride back to Toronto.

Clearly, this was an exceptional experience for myself as a retreatant. The Newman Center under the guise of Josh Canning and Fr. Cauchi is a much needed breath of fresh air in a hostile area (university) and culture, so anti-Catholic in form and in ideology. They put on an awesome retreat with their team, and clearly gave us much to think about. 

As for everyone else, I would like to highlight an important point out of this account. Not all, but some people who are attracted to the Latin Mass, or attend, partake in the Latin Mass only, as well as limit themselves to conservative media of all types, and possibly even shun anything "Novus Ordo". 

I would like to state that while it is good in a sense to isolate yourself from all things spiritually damaging, just because much damage has been done post Vatican II in the institutional Church, does not mean that things are grim for the future of us. Despite what you read on numerous other blogs, there are still signs of hope for our generation, even within the "Novus Ordo" culture. 

Personally, I commit to my Novus Ordo home parish as a lector and a pastoral council member, and have started doing Grade 10 Social Justice (yeah that's right. That thing that Jesus did a lot.) retreats with the parish associated with my Latin Mass Choir. Just because there is much that needs to be realigned in the "Novus Ordo Culture," are we to shun our Catholic brothers and sisters who, like the tree in the Gospel for the Novus Ordo First Sunday of Lent (Year C), haven't "borne the fruit" we do spiritually? No. It`s not ``No salvation outside the Latin Mass.`` Likewise, there is much youth leadership lacking in the Catholic Church. That is why I participate in these activities, and even shed my trad-iness at times, because, via my leadership, I hope to encourage others to help themselves spiritually, and maybe even discover the Latin Mass (usually, when I mention my blog). They will have to make the choice themselves, but nonetheless, witnessing to others is still important, especially peer witness among the youth. That's what brought me to my reversion in a youth ministry at my former Novus Ordo parish. 

So when I have mentioned much about the accounts and signs I witnessed in this retreat, it is to show you that despite the "praise and worship" music used or the whole ``Novus Ordo`` thing more strict trads get hooked on, there are STILL signs of hope for the future of the Church, and my generation with the Faith. Just take this retreat for instance: The young couple, sharing a beautiful moment of their love for each other and for Christ in the chapel while praying the Modern FULL Breviary, the young intellectual I met with a passion for traditional Catholic worship, the bulk of us being exposed to critical messages with regard to serious sexual sins of pornography and contraception, the coming to critical junctures and reflection in our lives on our vocations, the 48 of us youth in front of the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration .... all this, really showed me, and hopefully yourselves in my recollection, that there is still much hope and holiness by the youth in the modern ``Novus Ordo Church,`` and I am glad to partake in some part of it, and not confine myself to pure Latin Mass/Traditional Catholicism. 

Pax Tibi Christi, Julian Barkin

P.S. To the young intellectual, (you know who you are), being a Latin Mass attendee of similar spirit, while  not an server, I am open to contributions to the blog considering it covers Latin Mass serving (main focus) and Latin Mass related issues in the archdiocese (secondary focus). You are more than welcome to contribute too, and of course, all contributions will be credited. 

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