"The Call" February 2021 Newsletter: Lent and Canonical Retreats
Dear Friends in Christ,
The season of Lent is now upon us and I pray this email finds you well.
We approach the time of the year when many of our men have their evaluations and receive the good news that the faculty have voted to recommend them as fit to be ordained. Some have already heard! It is a very joyous time of the year as these begin to trickle in one by one, culminating in the ordinations in May and June.
Each month I have asked seminarians to write about a different topic, many of them covering the four aspects of priestly formation: human, intellectual, pastoral, and spiritual. This month you will hear from Cleber de Paula about the requirement to prepare for ordination by making a canonical retreat of five days. Some of the men made their retreat during winter break this year because spring break, a typical time to make one, will not take place at some of the seminaries this year. Priests continue to make an annual retreat. I just completed my annual one this month at Most Holy Trinity Monastery in Petersham
, the same place where Cleber had done his. It was a grace-fiilled experience.
At the House of Studies, we also focus on the four dimensions of formation in two ways. Each seminarian in his first semester here is asked to read the Apostolic exhortation by Pope Saint John Paul II
I Will Give you Shepherds
to understand what we are trying to do in formation. After that, each man writes for the academic year goals in each area, with concrete objectives on how he is working to grow in this area. Some are basic human skills like, “To be better organized with my time, I will make a daily to-do list” to pastoral tasks such as speaking (possibly for the first time) in front of groups at a parish.
Throughout the year, every month we have at the House of Studies a formation night where an outside presenter speaks to the seminarians on a different topic. Thus far, they have heard about the four dimensions of priestly formation, lectio divina, ministry in a multicultural parish setting, ministry with the poor, and working alongside women in ministry. We also had a spiritual meditation and night of reflection with a penance service in Advent. In the next few months, we will have a similar Lenten night of meditation and conclude with a talk on the pastoral realities and challenges of ministry in our diocese today. The seminarians at the house have found the talks insightful and challenging.
Please remember that you can help us in the following ways:
Share the Vocations Retreat Poster
: If you know a young man who is high school aged, or older, whom you think should be invited to attend our 1-day annual retreat, please continue to encourage and invite. The retreat is March 27th from 9-5:30 PM at North American Martyrs in Auburn.
Join us in Prayer
: On the same day as the vocation retreat, Saturday, March 27
, all those who support vocations are invited to join in a day of prayer for the men who are discerning on the retreat. At Saint James Parish in Grafton, we are going to have a “Day of Adoration” that starts with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at 8:30 AM and ends after the 4:30 PM vigil Mass. Throughout the day there will be time for silent prayer, all four mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and other prayers for vocations will be prayed. There will be an opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. All are welcome for any time during the day. For more information please contact:
Lastly, don't forget that this year April 25th is World Day of Prayer for vocations. Please consider organizing something in your parish, with the blessing of your pastor. A holy hour for vocations could be held, petitions could be included at the Mass, or religious education children could be invited to write letters to the seminarians.
As we begin this Lenten season, I pray that you have a grace-filled Lent. May God bless you and your loved ones.
Father Donato Infante
PS If you received this newsletter by e-mail forwarding and would like to sign up, please visit our website by clicking
PPS In the December issue, you heard from Derek Mobilio about his experience at the Seek conference a year ago. Seek21 took place remotely in February all over the country. Many of our seminarians participated: Brian James and Wylie Malcolm facilitated small groups at Assumption University, Deacon Jose Carvajal helped run the virtual vocation booth, and Michael Hoye helped me facilitate a small group of college aged men and recent college graduates.
Retreats and their Importance to our Christian Life
By Cleber de Paula
As I approach the end of my third year of Theology, and conscious of the many steps taken in preparation to entering the clerical state as a transitional deacon, I would like to share one of the final steps that has to be taken prior to ordination. That is the canonical retreat. But before that, let us think about the importance of retreats in its general sense.
Reading the Gospel, we see that on many occasions before making important decisions or beginning a mission, Jesus would withdraw to a mountainous or desert region, where he would spend long periods of silence and prayer. The Gospel narratives present many of those times in Jesus’ prayer life. Among those we see, for example, the forty days Jesus spent in the desert following his baptism and prior to the beginning of his public ministry; we also see the night He spent in prayer before choosing His closest followers, as witnessed in the Lukan account: “In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named apostles.” (Lk 6:12-13) In this way, the Lord himself by His life informs us of the importance of removing ourselves from our daily routines to have some quiet and quality time of prayer. This is, in a basic sense, what we call a retreat.
Retreats aim to imitate the example of Jesus – open ourselves through prayer and solitude to God’s presence in a way that we can listen to His will. For this reason, the retreat is a valuable path that allows people to disconnect from their routine by offering not their spare time, but time that is precious and offered to the Lord, choosing the “good part,” as Mary, Lazarus’ sister, did: “The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.’” (Lk 10:41-42) In a retreat we are able to step away from the anxieties of life to reflect on ourselves, on the way we are living, acting, behaving, dedicating time for ourselves and for God, and to know ourselves fully. Retreats also give us the opportunity to strengthen our faith and bonds of communion in order to renew our prayerful life and spirituality, which prepare us for our presence and ministry in the world.
In this context, following the prayerful example of Christ’ life, the Church calls those who are about to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders to have a period of intense prayer of at least five days – this is what we call a canonical retreat. The Code of Canon Law states that “All candidates for any order are to make a spiritual retreat for at least five days in a place and manner determined by the ordinary. Before the bishop proceeds to ordination, he must be certain that the candidates properly made this retreat (Canon 1039).” For my retreat, I asked Father Donato to help me find a suitable place, since because of the pandemic, I was having a hard time finding a place. Most retreat houses were not receiving guests. God provided that, after being contacted by Fr. Donato, the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity would welcome me for my retreat. This monastery is located in Petersham, Massachusetts, and is led by the Maronite Monks of Adoration. My retreat happened during the last week of this past December. Those five days of solitude, silence, meditation, and prayer were a grace-filled experience for me. My day revolved around the monastic schedule of the liturgy, starting with Mass at 7:30 AM, then Midday Prayer at 11:30 AM, 6:20 PM Evening Prayer, and 8:50 PM Night Prayer. The time in between those liturgical prayers, I reserved for my personal prayer – meditation on the scriptures, reflection on the life of three deacons (St. Stephen, St. Vincent - deacon and martyr, and St. Lawrence - deacon and martyr), adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and the prayer of the rosary. Time was also dedicated for meditation on the three-fold pastoral ministry of deacons – the ministry of Word, Liturgy, and Charity.
I finish this little reflection on the importance of retreats for our Christian life sharing one of the prayers that were fruits of my reflections: “If I open my life, my mind, and my heart to God’s grace, He will certainly bestow on me all the necessary graces and gifts to serve His people. As I prepare myself for Holy Orders, may this certainty be at the foundation of this so important step I am taking in my life. May St. Vincent, deacon and martyr, pray for me and for all those in preparation for diaconate and priesthood. Amen!”
Father Donato Infante
on Tuesday, February 23 at 7:56AM