Monday, April 21, 2008

Speak(ing) Now

Sevenhill, where we made our retreat.

Hello! Or, as we would have said on retreat,( ). 30 days have come and gone, and then some, and we are all back in the land of the speaking, TV watching, and rushing about. On behalf of all the tertians, I thank you each for your prayers. We prayed for you guys, too, and I know for me personally on the dryer days I took great comfort in the fact that people were praying for me. So, thanks.

My first 30 day retreat brings back any number of memories. Myself, two others and our novice director ice skated every during the retreat. Toward the end, as we were all getting a bit stir crazy one classmate began choking on a hotdog during lunch, causing the entire room to just lose it. People were crying they were laughing so hard. There was also a song at one point about wanting to be a soldier for Jesus.

This retreat, too, will have its memories. Like the temperatures. The first week of the retreat the temp got up to 40 degrees and stayed up in the 30s (i.e. over 100 degrees Fahrenheit). The second week, we went from wearing one layer to something like four or five, as the temp dropped to around 16 degrees daytime, sometime single digits at night -- so, say 45-60 degrees.

Also, the animals we encountered. There were the cute ones -- five baby calves that lived pretty much right across the road from my house. Skippy the kangaroo, who lived back behind the main house, and his billion cousins who could be found on any short driving trip.

Unaware that I had eaten one of his kind, Skippy lets me approach.

(Kangaroos -- very cool. More about them another time.) Then there were the not so cute beasties-- the millipides who found their way into every nook and cranny of every room of the property, once things cooled off some. And the spiders as big as your hand. Yeah. Apparently they are not poisonous, they are not dangerous, there's nothing to see here, etc. But nevertheless every fight or flight instinct in me screamed for action. Usually I fought, but on at least one break day, I just ran out of the bathroom where they tended to congregate, saying "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God." In the other house some guys also had nightly battles with dive-bombing mosquitoes. It was like World War One in there.

And the view. Sevenhill is the original community of the Australian Province. Jesuits came over from Austria in the nineteenth century, they landed in the South and came up to Sevenhill, two hours to the north. There they started a school and a zillion parishes, and very soon thereafter a winery. Today, the school's gone, the parishes are consolidated, but that winery keeps on going. It is the only winery still run by the Society of Jesus. And might I say, it's some mighty good wine. If you're interested,here's their website. I understand they're just beginning to sell in the United States. I highly recommend them.

So, the view. The main house looks out on the winery, and as we pulled up all I could think was, Tuscany. Hot and dry, blue sky, rolling hills filled with green vines - just gorgeous.

Part of the vineyard.

In my house, which was across the road, the terrain was totally different -- hilly still, but no vines, just long, willowy eucalyptus trees and parched land. (The land is in fact suffering from a three year drought. Pray they may get rain!) That might sound desolate, but it had a certain "Out of Africa" quality to it. Plus, on either side of the property, when the sun went down, what a show.

One sunset from our side of the property.

Maybe my favorite photo is this one:

In its small form, I'm not sure you get the full effect. Try clicking on it to see what I'm talking about.

Spectacular, spectacular visions.

I'll tell you one more funny story about the retreat, one that's funny now, anyway. Halfway through our third week (during which many of us were contemplating Jesus' death), the preacher at mass, Fr. Joe Sobb, gave a very serious homily about how we have to die before we can rise. It was utterly fitting the occasion, but I don't know... there was something about it...

And then, after mass, our rector, Adrian Lyons, said "Um, I have some bad news." Most of us from what I gather assumed someone at Canisius had died. No one had really been sick before we left, but it is the retirement community, these things happen.

Nope. "Two days ago," Adrian said, "robbers broke into the front office and the minister's office of Canisius House."


"The next day, while everyone was at lunch, they returned. This time they brought with them steel bars, and they broke into every tertian's room."

For real! Guys broke into our rooms while we were away on our retreat. Can you believe that! Strangely, they did not seem to steal computers or other tech stuff. Just money. They took all the money they could find.

I have to say, on that day, after a number of us nursed our pain over chocolate milkshakes, I told God, I'm so grateful for all the people who have been praying for us, praying that we would receive the graces of the retreat, to truly grow closer to you. But today, I'd like you to ignore them for a little while. Just until we're out of the suffering part and into the resurrection.

I'm going back to Sydney tomorrow, and we'll see what the damage is. But don't feel bad. No, no, please, don't worry about me. I'm fine. Who needs money. (Sigh.) I'll just sit in my room and be by myself for the next four months. I've already been able to see Sydney once or twice, I guess. That's probably enough. It's Ok. No, really. (Greg O'Meara, this paragraph was written for you.)

Seriously, the whole thing was a little weird but nobody was hurt and everything's insured so all shall be well. It is a good story, though, isn't it?

Again, thanks for all the prayers. It was really a great experience, and I'm grateful that I have had the opportunity to do it. 30 days of being open to God. Really quite a unique opportunity and a strange blessing.

I'll post something again soon about Melbourne, my new favorite city. For now, though, one more shot of Sevenhill at sunset.