The theme of our Retreat this year was "He Who Has Ears to Hear, Let Him Hear: The Parables of Our Lord Jesus Christ." We heard excellent sermons preached by the Fathers in attendance every day on various of our Lord's parables, and spent time studying a few of them in depth together. In addition, Fr. Richard Futrell gave an excellent presentation on "New Covenant Worship as the Fulfillment of Old Covenant," showing in detailed fashion the connection between the two Covenants and the continuity between them when it comes to how God's people worship Him.
Our Retreat began Tuesday afternoon. After checking in and getting settled, we gathered in the chapel for Holy Mass at 4:00 p.m. (Votive Mass of the Holy Angels), with Fr. Larry Beane serving as Celebrant and myself as Preacher. After Mass, I made my world-famous brats (okay, maybe not world famous, but pretty good, nonetheless) and Fr. Larry's wonderful wife, Grace, assisted me in the kitchen, preparing sides and salad. We rounded off the day with me leading a discussion on the theme of the Retreat, as well as introducing a publishing project for our Society to the Fathers and Brothers in attendance, which was well received and will begin to be implemented in the next couple of months. We also had ample time to relax, visit, and shoot the breeze with one another throughout the afternoon/evening, and gathered to pray Compline to end our day, with Dcn. Joe Greene serving as liturgist (as he did each evening at Compline). Our Retreat was off to a great start!
Wednesday began with Matins at 7:30 a.m., with Fr. Aaron Filipek serving as Liturgist and Preacher, blessing us with a proclamation on the Parable of the Lost Sheep. We gathered for breakfast at the Toddhall Dining Hall at 8:30 a.m. and were back in the chapel at 10:00 a.m. for Holy Mass (Feast of St. Barnabas), with Fr. Richard Futrell serving as Celebrant and Fr. Jay Watson as Preacher. At 11:00 a.m., Fr. Richard gave the first part of his presentation, mentioned above, and we followed that with the Office at Sext at 12:15 p.m., with me serving as Liturgist and St. Cyril of Alexandria as our Preacher. Then, it was off to lunch in the Dining Hall at 12:30 p.m. and back to the Tyndale House at 2:00 p.m. for the second part of Fr. Richard's presentation. We prayed Vespers at 3:30 p.m., with Fr. William Weedon serving as Liturgist and Preacher, sharing an excellent homily on the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector, then we gathered for dinner in the Dining Hall at 5:30 p.m. We had a couple hours of free time until we gathered at 8:00 p.m. to hear Dcn. Latif Gaba give a presentation on "The History of the Society of Saint Polycarp," which lead into a discussion and brainstorming on the Society going forward. Compline to round off the day.
Thursday again began with Matins at 7:30 a.m., with Fr. Larry serving as Liturgist and Fr. Richard serving as Preacher, holding forth on the Parable of the Talents. After Matins, Grace made us breakfast, employing the farm-fresh eggs Dcn. Joe brought for us, and then we were off to pay a visit to the International Center of the LCMS. Unfortunately, Fr. Richard had to leave after Matins to attend to an unexpected death in his parish, so he wasn't able to join us for our visit to the I.C. and had to miss the remainder of the Retreat. Fr. William left early on Thursday to head over to the I.C., as he was serving as Liturgist and Preacher for chapel there at 10:00 a.m. When we arrived at the I.C. a little before 10:00 a.m., Fr. William greeted us and showed us to the chapel, where he lead Responsive Prayer 1 and preached a short homily on Acts 2 (the Day of Pentecost) to all who were in attendance. After the Service, he introduced us as "his brethren in the Society of Saint Polycarp," as well as all the other guests who were there that day. Then, he lead us on a tour of the I.C., which included taking us into the Executive Offices, where the Rev. Dr. Jon Vieker (Senior Assistant to the President) graciously showed us around. Unfortunately, President Harrison wasn't in that morning, but we all got to sit in his chair and pretend to be "king for a day." :)
After touring the I.C., we went out for lunch to a restaurant Fr. William recommended, where everyone but Leo (Fr. Larry's awesome son) and me ordered sirloin tip salad (or something like that), per Fr. William's suggestion, while Leo and I ordered sandwiches, as is normal for lunch. :) (Actually, the salad thingy everyone got looked very good and they all raved about how delicious it was; but, the sandwiches were pretty good, too). After lunch, it was back to Toddhall for Holy Mass at 1:30 p.m., with Fr. William serving as Celebrant and Fr. Larry as Preacher. Then, we relaxed until it was time for Vespers at 4:30 p.m., with Fr. Aaron serving as Liturgist and me as Preacher, tackling the Parable of the Good Samaritan. After Vespers, we went out to dinner at a local restaurant called "Who-Dats," which served New Orleans food and made the Beane family feel right at home. In the evening, we were tremendously blessed to be lead in a study of the Parable of the Sower by Fr. Larry and a study of the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector by Fr. William. Both of these learned brothers presented us with some of the best teaching on these parables any of us has ever received, which lead into fantastic and deep discussions of them. It was like a Bible Study on steroids. Truly awesome! Then, we closed our night by praying Compline again.
Friday, our last day of the Retreat, began with Matins at 7:30 a.m., with Fr. William serving as Liturgist and Fr. Jay serving as Preacher, proclaiming the Good News of Isaiah 65:17-25 and the Parable of the Ten Virgins. After Matins, we took a little break to set up the altar and then celebrated Holy Mass (Votive Mass of the Holy Cross), with Fr. Aaron serving as Celebrant and me as Preacher. After Mass, Grace cooked us another delicious breakfast with Dcn. Joe's eggs and then it was time to pack up and depart by 11:00 a.m.
That's a rundown of our time together, but it doesn't do justice to how enormously blessed we were at this Retreat. Lots of time to relax and enjoy our time together, lots of laughs, some good drinks and cigars, good food, lots of theological discussion and reflection, and being in our Lord's Holy House to receive His Holy Word and Sacraments multiple times daily - well, it just doesn't get any better than that! And, we were so impressed with the facilities at Toddhall and the kind folks who run it that we have already set the date and reserved the Tyndale House and St. Cecilia's Chapel for next year's Retreat, which will be held Tuesday, June 9 - Friday, June 12.
Special thanks to Grace for cooking and cleaning for us during our stay, and to Leo, who lead most of our meal prayers IN LATIN, which was very impressive. Fr. Larry is blessed with a wonderful family. Special thanks also to Fr. William for playing the organ/piano during many of our Services, and for leading us on a tour of the I.C., and to Dcn. Joe for bringing the eggs and leading us in Compline each night, and to Frs. Richard, Larry, and William, and Dcn. Latif for their Presentations/Bible Studies, and to all the Fathers who preached and celebrated. It was all outstanding; I really don't know how it could have gone any better than it did.
Can't wait for next year's Retreat!
Fr. Thomas Messer
+ Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam! +