Reflections

The page is dedicated to Men of Manresa who want to post a poems or a reflections about their retreat with GOD. All you have to do is e-mail it to me and I will post it on the reflection page.   

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BY:   Jarred Degeyter

12 February 2008

Silence is Golden: Retreat to Manresa

Silent retreats have been organized by the Jesuits at Manresa since 1913, and have touched the lives of many. My family first discovered this retreat in 1973 when my grandfather was asked to attend by a co-worker. It was an eye-opening experience for him and he has been present for every one of the following yearly retreats. He was so impressed with his encounter that he began to encourage me to attend as soon as I was old enough. Being somewhat of an arrogant young man, I was skeptical at first, but eventually I relented and agreed to participate. It was an incident that was unlike anything I had expected. The Manresa Retreat House provided a place of serenity in which I could escape the hectic modern world, reflect on my life introspectively, and grow spiritually.

On first thought, many people would think that a three-day weekend spent in silence would be a waste. I was in the same boat when I first heard about it. I mean, come on, how much fun could I have by sitting around and not talking all day? But the thing is, Manresa is not all about fun. It is more about getting to know yourself on a closer level and learning how to become a better person. Myself and 110 other men attended ten spirituality seminars given by Jesuit priests throughout the retreat. Even though these were aspiring, I found the most beneficial time was the time spent with myself. It gave me a chance to develop a stronger spiritual life and a chance to rest and recuperate.

Solitude and relaxation is key at Manresa. Even the daily routine is scheduled in a relaxed way, which required no participation from the partakers. Even though I did not have to, I attended all of the meetings and still had an abundant amount of time left over for myself. Most of this time was spent in personal reflection, relaxation and prayer.

One of my favorite places to unwind and pray was on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. Being right beside something that is so immense and majestic made me feel tiny in comparison. Yet at the same time itís forceful current sweeping past me painted a picture of beauty that aided in my meditation. As I reclined on the banks of the largest river in the United States, basked in the golden rays of the sun, and enveloped myself in the silence of Manresa I could not help but think of how small and insignificant I am. Yet, God still hears me and answers my prayers.

     Another one of my favorite things to do is walk among a row of ancient live oak trees that led to a life-sized crucifix. They were planted by the Jesuits in 1872 shortly after the Civil War and provide a natural canopy to walk under.  Slowly strolling down this huge procession of oaks put me in the perfect frame of mind for reflection. When I reached the end of the line I sat down on the grass and felt the breeze fly past me while I contemplate about my life in my picturesque environment.

With the quiet stillness the House provides, I can think in a clearer way I never knew before. The tranquility allows me to envision which path of life I wanted to embark on, and which ways I can improve myself along the way. The solitude points out every fault and merit I possessed and I can now see what I really need to change about myself. Now the only question is, what will I do with the insight I have been given?

 

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Manresa House of Retreats has certainly changed over the years.  As sure as the rich get richer, the pampered get even more pampered. 

Making a retreat at Manresa House used to be a rigorous undertaking. There were many distractions to overcome in order to follow the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola.  One had better be equipped with appropriate reading material because the library was barley within thirty years of being up to date. 

A simple walk around the grounds after dark was a risky proposition.  The perimeter roadway and the main walkway from the fishpond were not paved.  Turning an ankle in these areas was quite easy to do.  Every path and ground level porch was lined with thick Monkey Grass.  The grass had strategically placed bare spots to allow the armadillos to run through in order to scare hell out of any wayward retreatant.  Now most of the Monkey Grass has been replaced with flowerbeds and the Armadillos have all been trapped and released in some far away wooded area. (Or perhaps in the Saturday Gumbo). 

Walking in the woods was only for the most adventurous Retreatant.  Once past the statue of the Blessed Mother it was every man for himself.  Puddles were everywhere, some the size of small lakes.  No matter how pretty the weather and how dry the ground going into the woods, the walk back was always colder and wetter.  Now the woods are filled with beautiful statues of the Lord and other religious figures to help keep the Retreatant in a prayerful state of mind – instead of overpowering thoughts of Ned Beatty and his famous canoe trip.  Deliver us Lord from these evil thoughts. 

Another area which has been changed forever is the Dining Room.  In the old days all of the food carts entered the room and exited the room from the same door.  Sure it took longer, but the wait produced patience in the Man of Manresa.  Every table was served with different sized serving bowls.  Some glass, some plastic and some aluminum.  We now have no need to covet our neighbors bowl, it’s exactly like ours.  We were all forced to place a blob of butter on our plate whether we wanted butter or not.  There were no individually wrapped pats of butter, we shared a single stick of butter.  (How was there always have a full stick of butter at every meal?  Did someone mix all the unused butter together and make new sticks three times a day?)  And ice was a luxury at the table!  Only the first two or three men at the table got ice.  Ice was earned by spooning it out of the metal water pitcher, the un-insulated metal water pitcher.  Speaking of un-insulated – the coffee was served from an un-insulated metal pitcher that burned a minimum of two retreatants per year, per table. 

Walking to the river was not the pampered experience it is today.  Getting to the levee was once a feat in itself.  No longer must the smell of rotting cabbage be conquered.  Gone is the single plank of wood that crossed the ditch in front of the levee.  Now a three-foot wide wooden bridge makes the ditch hardly noticeable.  And getting to the levee used to be as daring as most Men of Manresa could stand.  The walk to the River’s bank wasn’t even considered by most.  The few who took the challenge would have to break away fallen branches, walk through more mud and puddles and pray the River didn’t come up to swallow them.  Now, the pampered retreatant is free to walk the vast clearing of land between the levee and the river and sit on any number of freshly painted benches to contemplate life’s tough questions. In days gone now, the prayerful man considered himself blessed if a piece of driftwood was found to sit on.  

It seems that in this day of super pampering all that is left for the Man of Manresa to do is to exercise.  Not physical exercise of course, but Spiritual exercise.  What an awesome experience it is to exercise in the presence of the Lord.  To contemplate how wretched we could be without God, to contemplate how merciful God is, and to receive God’s forgiveness in the Life, Death and Resurrection of His Son and our Lord and Savior, Jesus. 

To paraphrase a favorite saying of Father Romagosa’s, God loved Manresa just the way it was, but far too much to let it stay that way. 

Mark T. Martinez

 

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The following simple verses were written during the July 19-22, 2001, retreat at Manresa. It was originally inspired by a close friend who is a true soldier of Christ and a veteran Manresa retreatant. It was later expanded upon after witnessing the example of our parish's young altar server of the year, who made his first retreat with us at that time. Its conclusion is based on the teachings of spiritual exercises of the retreat.


Coincidentally, it can be sung to the tune of John Prine’s folk song "Paradise" (AKA "Muhlenburg County").

 

 
Only for You Lord

How can a person who’s two times my age
Show me the way Lord, show me the way
Through their worship and prayers and the service they do
Only for you Lord, only for You

How can a person who’s just half my age
Show me the way Lord, show me the way
Through their worship and prayers and the service they do
Only for you Lord, only for You

How can a person who’s precisely my age
Show me the way Lord, show me the way
Through my worship and prayers and the service I do
Only for You Lord, only for You

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A MANRESA REFLECTION

We awoke at Manresa, day one of our retreat
The fog rolled in, as the poet had said, "on little cat's feet."
The sun later crashed through the moss on the oaks,
It was sure good to be back among all of these folks.

No T.V. to haunt us, no news to alarm us,
No ads to bombard us, no boss to taunt us.
Only God's word to comfort us,
And God's creation to awe us.

Reflection, it is said, is the name of the game
With so much to ponder, some is missed, what a shame!
Do I study a rose bush, or stare at a bee,
Or should I look to myself, and marvel, how God even made me.

With the sky so blue, and the oaks so green,
With the buildings so white, what a wonderful scene.
With the silence so golden, with the breeze so smooth,
It was hard not to wonder....maybe Heaven's a lateral move!!

Randy Ory
49er
1st weekend in December


MANRESA

Morning mist woven thru the oaks
Flowers drinking the morning dew.
Light of dawn sneaking in
A day at Manresa made anew.

Noontime sun hot and bright
Tamed by oaks,  widespread.
Clouds drift in boundless skies
Natural and Supernatural are wed.

Evening time, the cool of day
Shadows creap across the lawn.
Stars pop out, the moon shines
Night prepairs itself for dawn.

EUGENE COLLINS
LABOR DAY WEEKENDER
22 BLESSED YEARS


by

Kenneth Joseph Roberts

May 21, 1998 - The Ascension of Our Lord

 

The Lord has blessed me in immeasurable ways since my first retreat at Manresa in April 1985. My most recent retreat was this past April, in which the Lord again touched my heart with His love, forgiveness, peace, and silent Presence. His touch is a gift which comes often unexpectedly as I read his Word, sit in his Eucharistic Presence, and walk or sit in His Presence on the grounds of Manresa. By His grace I carry these blessings with me though the year until my next retreat. These experiences I have with the Lord sustain me as I walk though the trials and

tribulations of life, and also inspire me as I walk in the uncountable blessings He gives me throughout the year.

Recently, I have felt led to collect selected meditations from what I have in my several Manresa diaries. Since my first retreat , during my times of prayer at Manresa, I am often led to write my prayers and meditations. These are inspired by reflections on his Word, the Men of Manresa, the grounds, the oak trees, the gardens, the roses and other flowers, the birds and other small creatures, the Mississippi River, the skies, the sunshine, stars and the moon, the often cool breezes, and even the rain thunder and lightning of the sometimes stormy April days in Convent, Louisiana. All of these sources of inspiration at Manresa are amplified by the Silence practiced by the Men of Manresa, which is the gift God gives to us, so that His voice can be more clearly heard. Indeed it has been my experience and that of those of thousands of other Men of Manresa that it truly is "The House of Silence and Sacred Sod, where nobody speaks to anybody, but everybody speaks to God" (Louis Yarrut, a Jewish Man of Manresa).

Only God knows who will ever read these words which I am sharing from my Manresa retreats. But no matter who you are reading them now, I pray that they will inspire you, and in some way will bring you closer to their source, the Living God. He is Jesus the Way, the Truth, and the Life, who alone can Save, and who alone can fill the inherent hunger and thirst in the hearts of us all. So, I pray that the Holy Spirit will move you to seek a personal relationship with Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and if He already is living in your heart, that you will want to seek more of Him as you share in my personal Manresa Meditations.

 

MY 12th RETREAT, April 23-26, 1998 

Friday April 24, 1998, 2:20 PM (On the Mississippi River batture, sitting in the grass overlooking the river):

("Breaths of the Holy Spirit"). O’ Breath of Life, I think of You and I feel You as my senses gaze on the leaves of the trees rustling in the wind, which is cooling my body. You give Life in the Air of Your Presence blowing in and through my life. You give Life in the Water of Your Cleansing; healing, delivering, forgiving, and refreshing my body, mind, and spirit. O’ Breath of God, O’ Water of God, O’ Life of God, sweep me into the unplanned, into the unexpected, into those situations, and circumstances where I have to let You control. O’ Breath of Life, I let go of all that I am, and all that I possess and toss everything into Your Wind. Carry all away to do Your Work, to submit to Your Will. Just give me the Breath of Your Love and Grace to provide all I need as I am swept away by the Breath and Breeze of Your Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Friday April 24, 1998, 7:45 PM (In the St. Ingatius of Loyola Statue garden):

("A Melody of Solitude"). The birds sing their final twilight song, as the chirping of the crickets join along, in a Melody of Solitude. The Creator of this all uses their call to calm my mind, to still my spirit. O’ sleepy mind, rest in He Who made you, Who wants you, His beloved, to be still and be at peace in the solitude of His Twilight Presence. O’ Lord of this cool twilight breeze, breathe Your coolness and freshness of Peace on me. In the distance I hear bells .... they are St. Michael’s telling us, in the Lord’s Twilight Presence, that all is well. O’ rest my spirit, have no fear, for the Lord of Solitude is here. He bids you: "Rest in My Holy Spirit; cast all your cares on Me, for I care for you. Put your trust in Me, and I will give you rest; I will give you the best of My Melody of Solitude". 

Saturday April 25, 1998, 2:00 PM (Near the Goldfish pond):

("Ode to Life").

He created all life to be good and holy.

By the sin of Adam, His creation dies, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

Before the Creation, the Creator had a plan,

knowing we would sin, His Only Son became Man.

Born of a Virgin’s womb,

Jesus, Son of Man, Who Lived, Loved, Died, and Rose from His tomb.

He did this all, knowing man’s heart of rejection;

but some of us do accept, and experience a like Resurrection.

 

Sunday April 26, 1998, 7:00 AM (In the woods behind the back row of Oak trees):

("Awake O’ World, the Son Rises!").

Awake O’ World, the Son Rises in the hearts of His believers as they rise to this new day.

The rays of the sun cut through the mist of the dawn.

The Love of the Son cuts through the mist of our doubts.

The light of the sun shines between the trees, enlightening the grass under their leaves.

The Light of the Son shines in our minds and hearts enlightening our minds to His Truth.

The birds in the air and in the trees sing songs of life as they celebrate this new day.

His Word, which we share, gives us the song to sing of His New Life, given to us on His Resurrection Day.

Awake, O’ souls of all, and answer "yes!" to His call:

"Come to Me, all of you who want to live My Life in your hearts, and you will also Rise with Me to my Place of Glory to live with Me forever!"

Awake O’ World, the Son Rises in the hearts of His believers as they walk through this new day.


(Reserved for the next reflection)

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