by Max Puffer, SPO student at the University of St. Thomas
When you hear of a “Men’s Retreat” you probably don’t imagine a bunch of college-aged men in a lakeside cabin opening their hearts to Jesus. But that is exactly what happened at the SPO Men’s Retreat in December of 2016! Around 40 men from the University of St. Thomas, University of Minnesota and other colleges went up north to the small town of Cook, Minnesota to grow as brothers in Christ. The retreat started with a nerf war and water pong, setting the stage for sessions with topics such as forgiveness and what it means to be a son of God. After introducing each topic, we broke off into groups of two to discuss and pray. Men were encouraged to reject lies we had listened to in our lives, to stop placing our self-worth and identity in success or money, and instead to place our trust in God’s promises. We reaffirmed each other’s dignity as sons of God and renewed our baptismal vows. The retreat also touched on the difference between bitterness and forgiveness. Men wrote down names of persons they had a difficult time forgiving and prayed an act of forgiveness towards these persons. After gathering back together, we shared how God had entered our hearts and started breaking down what was sometimes years of resentment to replace it with His love and mercy.
We had some extended break time Saturday afternoon to explore the area more and to rest up. Some guys went and played a huge game of football on a frost-covered field at the local high school while others stayed at the cabin to pray and contemplate on what they had heard. After the break, we discussed what it meant to live as beloved sons of God free from condemnation, despite our sins and weaknesses. We had a fantastic dinner and were joined by the local pastor, Fr. Drew, who had come to celebrate Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation with us.
For three hours, we worshipped the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration. We had the monstrance set up on a table in the cabin’s living room. We prayed for grace to let all we had learned into our hearts and to let God move us toward being better men living for Him. Men sang praises and chants glorifying God and living in his freedom. After worship, we went out on the porch to smoke cigars and unwind. We made a fire and threw in the booklets we received at the beginning of the retreat as a symbol of God’s mercy and our newfound freedom in Christ. As each guy came up to burn his book, he shared with the group what the Lord had done in him on the retreat. After a good night’s sleep, we celebrated Sunday Mass at the local parish and carpooled for the 4 hour drive back to the Twin Cities. We left deeper in our faith and with the mission of bringing the love and mercy we had received back to our campuses.