Back in November, the men in SPO NJ’s formation program went on a retreat. The men’s retreat was a Peter Discipleship Retreat, which focused on Peter's life, especially his ups and downs in following the Lord. This was an opportunity for the men to learn more of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and apply it to their lives. Gabe Natural, one of the men living in the SPO Men’s House, and John Hughes, a member of the SPO formation program, reflect on the retreat:
Brotherhood and Prayer
By Gabe Natural
Three words come to my mind when I reflect back on the SPO Formation Men’s Retreat: brotherhood, prayer, and relationship. The retreat was truly a blessing to be a part of, because I feel that I learned so much and grew in relationship and brotherhood with other guys in the short span of a couple of days. Going on a retreat during the first semester of college seems stressful, but it was actually an extremely relaxing and peaceful weekend.
The brotherhood I experienced during the retreat was unique, because I felt that it was an extension of the brotherhood I had already experienced while living in the SPO men’s house. The competition during our recreation time, the laughs that we shared, and the time spent together were such memorable experiences. Aside from the good times and laughs, seeing the support all the guys at the retreat had for each other was amazing. Whether in competition or in prayer, each guy on the retreat was there for everyone else.
Aside from the brotherhood that was built upon on the retreat, everyone was given times throughout the day to enter into personal prayer and build upon our relationships with God. Personally, I felt that the time I spent in prayer during the retreat was most memorable for me, because that time now acts as an example for what I should strive for in personal prayer every day. I feel that God was truly working through every man on the retreat through the time that we took for personal prayer. Through personal prayer, I felt that my relationships with God and with the other guys on the retreat were strengthened and developed. God’s grace truly permeated within each of us through prayer.
I truly enjoyed and cherished every part of the Formation Men’s Retreat. It was a perfect balance of building relationships, establishing brotherhood, and diving into personal prayer in order to thrive and not just survive.
An Eye-opening Weekend
By John Hughes
Spring Lake? Retreat? Food not from the Cafeteria? A chance to put aside emails from work? I’ll be honest, time for God didn’t initially enter my thoughts until I was driving down the Garden State Parkway headed to Spring Lake for the Fall Men’s Retreat. Halfway down the parkway, we got stuck in New Jersey traffic. I had to slow down, and even change my route to find an easier way to get to Spring Lake. Looking back, it was a good realization, because it set the stage for the entire weekend. Going to Spring Lake, I thought I knew where I was going in my life. I was going to finish Student Teaching on December 15th, graduate from Seton Hall in the Spring, and go teach in the Fall. But, as the old adage goes, “Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.” I had my plans set in my head. I’d be able to live comfortably, find a job, and do what I love: Teach. The problem was, this was just a comfortable plan for me. Comfortable? I was in for eye-openers throughout the weekend.
I knew something was special immediately. What started out as an invite from my brother to say Evening Prayer from the Divine Office with him and a couple mutual friends became people (including myself) asking others to join us. Soon, we had twenty guys joined together praying the Psalms in a chapel. I’m used to doing the Divine Office by myself, and in community with the Men’s House when I can, but never in a larger community. After prayer and dinner, I was in for my first eye-opener of the weekend. Brother Jude opened up with a line that served as the theme for the retreat, “Brothers, there are many Christians, there are few Disciples. Which are you?” The message I got from the talk was simple: Christians live comfortably, Disciples live radically, putting aside their will for doing the will of God. It hurt because I realized I didn’t fall where I thought I did. I was content for comfort, and something needed to change. Wow, did it change.
The weekend ultimately provided a great opportunity for personal prayer, and I went out with a plan. I got to go to Mass at a beautiful church nearby, and later went to the Boardwalk to pray. The small waves hitting the shoreline masked the tranquil waters seen on the horizon. That struck me. The reason I live comfortably is so that I can mask the long-distance beauty by being fearful of the short-term challenges. It's kind of like being a disciple. Each day brings challenges to go into the storm, to carry the cross, in order to seek the beauty and transformation that is following Christ. The Lord opened my eyes in ways that I never anticipated on the Jersey Shore, and it’s shocking how 48 hours can change a perspective. I thought I had a plan, but The Lord opened my eyes to remind me that he has even greater plans for me than I thought. I pray that I can see past the challenges and persevere to encounter the peace that Christ gives us when we truly trust him in him and follow His will. Guided by the example of St. Peter, whose actions of discipleship and denial served as a theme for the weekend, and the witness of so many Missionaries who shared their stories of how they came to follow the Lord, I have a rekindled hope that I can follow The Lord’s will each day.