“Have fun at your retreat!”

This popular refrain comes whenever I explain why I will not be available for a few days.  I smile, politely thank them, and ask them for any prayer requests.  But to myself, I smirk (at least, I hope it is to myself).  Anyone who knows me knows I am pretty open with my sarcasm. I think people imagine us on a retreat getting manicures, playing games, and getting “me-time” as we listen to feel-good affirmation talks and sit around talking and laughing.  If you have ever been, you know the truth. Fun is definitely not the right word to describe our experience on Triduum!  It does beg the question, why do we take the time and spend the money to go on retreat when, indeed, we could be going to the beach or spa with our friends?  Why do we get so excited?

The Graymoor Spiritual Center is a beautiful addition to the many retreat locations where I have attended our annual Regnum Christi Triduum of Renewal.  The newly appointed rooms with amazing views, excellent food (my favorites: the oatmeal and the carrot cake), and 70-person max made this an ideal location for Tri-state’s implementation of its new plan of hosting a single Triduum in the calendar year.   The following blurb is taken from their website as I couldn’t word it better myself: “Nestled in the hills of the Hudson River in Putnam County, 50 miles north of New York City, Graymoor’s picturesque grounds, shrines and chapels are open dawn to dusk, year-round, for the public and people of all faiths to enjoy. From the summit of Mount Atonement, marvel at the sweeping vista and the beauty of a replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta. A few steps away, find the tranquility of the St. Francis Chapel, with its altar that once marked the spot where St. Francis of Assisi received his holy stigmata in 1224.”

With the 34 of us ladies converging on the “Holy Mountain” last Thursday from all over the Tristate area and even Rhode Island, the excitement was not in anticipation of fun- but of something much greater.  We had the opportunity to chat during dinner on Thursday evening before we entered into silence (did I mention this was a silent retreat?). It was nice to meet new people and catch up with those we have known for years, discussing all of the obstacles we faced in getting here, to where God wants us.

It is here that we are able to make time to listen and talk with God and hopefully get some clarity on our lives, even if it is for a moment.

For me, I was seeking the fervor and diligence I had in my early days.  I craved God and had a crazy fervor when I rediscovered my Catholic faith in 1999- a time I marked with the pregnancy of my 3rd child.  A married, stay-at-home mom, I lived in South Florida at this time and attended a charismatic parish.  I often describe the vibe like this: anyone practicing their faith was excited about it.  Moving to New Jersey in 2004, I was shocked to discover a much different vibe: people going to church mostly from a sense of discipline sending kids to CCD simply because that is what you did.  Fast forward to 2023, and my four kids are grown, with only the youngest still in college; my state of life has changed quite a bit.  I am plagued with accepting the reality that my stay-at-home mom status needs to change.  I miss my fearless fervor of the early days. I miss the endless energy of flitting from playgroup to bible study to CCD, never tiring of sharing my love of Christ.  Constantly energized, constantly in a state of wonder.

I am older now.  I am more formed.  While these are all good things, I find myself with so much time on my hands.  What am I supposed to do with all of this time?  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love reading and doing my logic puzzles, but I feel like I should be doing something more.  More purposeful.  It has been a constant question to God, with no answer other than “Patience.”  So, I wait.  I hope that I will suddenly be filled with renewed energy and diligence to follow through with any of the ideas that God may want me to do, and clarity on which.

The first of many meditations began right away after dinner, as did our silence.  This meditation is always the most important.  This is when we get a sense of a sort of theme or central idea that will radiate throughout the weekend.  Imagine the hope that filled me when Father Eric started speaking about the Holy Spirit!  Was this weekend going to reconnect me with my early days?

Beautiful things always happen during our Triduums.  Daily Mass, nightly Holy Hours, nocturnal adoration, meditations all day, rosary, confession, Spiritual Direction, Stations of the Cross in their outdoor garden.  Our weekend was filled with all of the things of God! I always wonder, amidst all of this, why do I always get so frustrated? So tired, yet unable to sleep?  Why do I feel times that I am not hearing anything at all?

Three things stood out for me this year:

First, perhaps the most beautiful moment of the weekend came during our Holy Hour on Saturday night when Father invited us individually to come before Christ in the Blessed sacrament for a special blessing. Imagine if you will, 34 women singing all of the songs in the songbook, one after the other, all the while Father Eric, holding Christ Our Lord, the Blessed Sacrament, in the beautiful golden Monstrance as, one by one, we process to him for our blessing. We all received something that moment. No one was quite sure how to be or what to say in that moment. It was a moment all of for us, one at a time, in silence. After a very frustrating Saturday, wondering why I was not getting any new insights, I just felt like I was physically kissed by the Holy Spirit. While my thoughts were a bit incoherent, I knew this blessing made sense.

Second, it has become a NY Tri-State tradition to gather in a circle on Sunday and share our lights. I strongly considered skipping this year since I really strived to be one of those people that can have their bags packed before Mass. Plus, I just really didn’t want to share anything. But then I remembered how much I love this part of our retreat. After 3 days of quietly being in the same room with other people, walking by them in the halls, quietly nodding to one another, I love hearing their experiences! So, giving a last glance at the stuff scattered all over my room, I decide to leave it as it was and go. I am was constantly in awe of the things that were shared. Doubts, fears, panic attacks, migraines, followed by moments of great grace and clear messages. I was moved by tears of people I had never seen cry, by doubts from people I consider the most religious, someone else echoing my craving for original fervor. I feel such joy at the end of this, no longer alone in my own fears and doubts.

Third, following Mass, we renewed our Promises to Christ, we welcomed the two people associating in RC, and finally, 5 of us took a new step in making our Promises of Self Giving. This new aspect of our movement was made know to us recently. Reading the description, and seeing the framework laid out, I knew this was perfect for me. Maybe this was what I needed! I am one that truly believes in supernatural graces, I know that in committing to this, to being available to Christ, that I would get the grace I needed to spur me to where he needed me to go.

At the end of this retreat, Father Eric says, “I bet you are all thinking about how you are going to re-enter the real world, right?  WRONG!  THIS is the real world!” While I can’t say I had fun, and I can’t even say I received the gifts I asked for, I can be so grateful for the opportunity to live in the real world, God’s world, for just a few days.  Will I get the graces to be filled with fervor, diligence, and clarity?  If you are reading this, that means I finished it and submitted it, so it is a beginning…Ask me in 6 months!

Written by Margaret Gartlgruber, a NY Tri-State Regnum Christi member

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