On Retreat with our Priests

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog!

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This past week I joined a number of our priests from the Diocese of Lancaster for our bi-annual retreat, which took place at the Oblate Fathers’ Centre, called Wistaston Hall, close to Crewe.

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We were blessed with excellent sunny weather throughout our time there, and the limited but well-maintained grounds, with a nearby park, gave us ample scope to get out and about and take advantage of the pleasant climate. A priest from the Archdiocese of Liverpool  led us in retreat and his conferences offered us much spiritual food for thought.

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As the word itself suggests, a retreat is a time of withdrawal and, much like a pilgrimage, provides the opportunity to stop and take stock of ourselves and the direction which our lives are taking.

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Given the widespread prevalence of the social media, and at times the seemingly never-ending stream of emails and text messages, a retreat affords us a break from such relentless engagement through its provision of space for silence and prayer. The fraternal presence of brother priests helps to create a unique atmosphere, and those moments of sharing and conversation, especially at table, were much appreciated.

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A retreat has its own rhythm, but at its centre stands the figure of Jesus Christ, and his promised abiding presence with his Church. The silent holy hour each evening before the Blessed Sacrament allowed us to sit with the Lord as his priests, with whom we have a unique link through our priestly ordination, and of course He with us.

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This very precious hour further nurtured our intimacy with the one who called us and has empowered us for priestly ministry. We can also rediscover in stillness and prayer the depths of our identity as priests of Jesus Christ.

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The celebration of Mass each day brought us together liturgically to hear afresh the word of God in the Scriptures and to recall the memorial of his passion through sharing in the sacred food of his holy Eucharist.

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Nothing touches a priest more deeply than the celebration of Mass, and to do so with fellow priests on retreat is for me as bishop a very special and satisfying experience. Following on the Lukan Emmaus story (ch.24), we really did encounter the Lord in the Scriptures and in the breaking of bread. Our Eucharistic celebration in truth brought a completion and wholeness to each day of our retreat.

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The ultimate retreat-director is of course the Holy Spirit. As the days pass we realize that while books and other aides have their place, just to leave oneself open to the gentle impulse of the Spirit brings a profound sense of interior refreshment and peace. This is something we cannot give ourselves, and represents the gift of God which Jesus spoke about in his dialogue with the Samaritan woman.

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A final thought, and an edifying one, was the use made of the Sacrament of Reconciliation by the priests on retreat. Each priest on our retreat would, I am sure, willingly acknowledge the wonderful moment of grace and mercy experienced in the reception of this often under-used sacrament.

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The few days together passed quickly, but we priests did depart from our retreat centre uplifted and glad to have given this time to the Lord.

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Until next week – May God bless you all.

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

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