Reflection by Dr. Michael Downey
In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed…When Simon Peter and his companions…found him, they said to him: Everyone is searching for you. Mark 1:35.
Jesus stayed outside in remote places; yet people kept coming to him from all quarters.
Very early the next morning Jesus got up and went out. He went away to a remote spot and remained there in prayer. But Simon and his companions went in search of him. Mark 2:35.
From the beginning of his gospel, Mark sets the pattern of Jesus’ life and ministry. He proclaims the good news in word and deed, goes apart to pray in remote places, then he is sought out by the people and so returns to an active life that leads to Calvary.
Those who follow in the way of Jesus are to do likewise. In Mark 6:30-31 the apostles rejoined Jesus and reported to him all their activities, all that they had done and taught. Then Jesus said to them: Come with me, by yourselves, to some remote place and rest a little.
This is the invitation we at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center offer you.
These days it is common to hear that co-workers and businesspeople go on retreat. Often they select a luxurious hotel with sumptuous meals and all the amenities. Their goal is to engage in discussion and assess how effective they are in reaching the aims of their team or corporation.
The goals of a retreat at Mater Dolorosa are quite different:
To withdraw a while to a remote and quiet place
To seek communion with God through quiet prayer
To reflect on the Word of God
To ponder the mystery of Christ through reflections by the members of the Retreat Team
To share in the sacramental life of the Church
To surrender entirely in trust to God’s care and to the service of mercy and justice in the world
Thus, a retreat at Mater Dolorosa bears fruit long after the retreatant leaves the serene grounds of the Retreat House. The experience of spiritual awakening and enrichment brings the retreatant into deeper relationship with Christ in the Spirit, into fuller communion with God and other people, with every living creature, indeed, with all creation.
For a person of Christian faith, the surest way to this communion is to contemplate the mystery of Christ, Word made flesh, the Son who reveals God’s fatherhood and offers his life as a gift to the world. It is he who makes God’s presence known on earth from the first proclamation of the kingdom. For this he has been sent in the power of the Spirit, to testify to the Father before the “powers” of the earth, and to surrender himself to the Father in his Passion and Cross, so that other might have life and have it to the full.
In coming away to the quiet of Mater Dolorosa, the retreatant contemplates Christ now given sacramentally in memory of his passion, death and resurrection, offered in words of blessing, compassion, and forgiveness, and pondered in the Spirit working silently within one’s own heart and hearts of the other disciples on retreat.
Those who contemplate the mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection on a silent retreat have to be conscious of the movement of the Spirit first within their own hearts, and then in relationship with others, family, coworkers, the wider world, and ultimately with the God to whom we cling in love, hope, and faith.