“Those who live a retreat in an authentic way, experience the attraction and fascination of God and return renewed and transfigured in their daily lives, their ministries, and their relationships.” (Pope Francis}
The members of the District of Asia-Marist Fathers and Brothersgathered on 1-7 April 2019, in Baan Petchsamran, a retreat house owned by the Ursuline Sisters in Hua Hin, Thailand. We are fortunate that Bishop Joseph Prathan of the Diocese of Suratthani, where the Marist Asia Foundation is based led us into a six-day spiritual exercise. Bishop Joseph’s easy-to be with personality helped to set the atmosphere knowing that retreat is also a time to go back to the core of our life as religious and missionaries. He started saying “I have nothing to share with you my dear brothers, just may be my failures as a bishop”. With our frailties and struggles, we learn to trust God. This is what Fr. Colin meant when he said “ You have also to learn to taste God-yes to taste God- and that is to feel your heart wounded (FS 65,3).
The general theme of the retreat was “Marists in the Local Church in the Light of Gaudete et Exsultate”. Bishop Joseph started deepening it by first showing to us the role of the Holy Trinity who is the “culmen et fons” of Christian faith. He led us into a deep reading of Andrej Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity. He re-introduced to us the beauty and importance of learning, understanding and meditating on the Word of God through lectio divina. He reminded us of that- priestly common tendency which is to assume that we know the Word of God by our first glimpse upon it. We were given opportunity to practice it and we were all enriched and encouaraged by its fruits through our small group sharing. He guided us in understanding the context and the rich meaning of Pope Francis’ Gaudete et Exsultate.
We all had given an opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and we all renewed our religious vows during the closing mass.
The retreat was enriching and meaningful by the fact that we gathered to go back to the source of our identity. The quality of our life and ministry reflects the manner we tend the essentials of our chosen vocation; prayer, silence and solitude, communitylife,discernment, spiritual and body execrcises.
Above all, the underlying message of the retreat is to become joyful religious and missionaries. We do not underestimate our struggles. The Christian life is a constant battle. We need strength and courage to withstand the temptations of the devil and to proclaim the Gospel. This battle is sweet, for it allows us to rejoice each time the Lord triumphs in our lives (GE 158).