Today is a day of retreat at Mt. Irenaeus. I’m leaving soon because I promised to help out and I’m sure it will be a restful day. I haven’t been on a retreat since February. I’m overdue. In our highly connected social whirl it’s good to get away for a time apart. A time off the grid. There was a time I thought of being a priest and though I’m glad my life took another direction there is still this ever present longing for union with God. One of my best friends and former spiritual advisor used to love “The Hound of Heaven.” That poem along with Merton’s writings have formed and informed my life.
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains, but where shall I find my help?
From you alone, O God, does my help come, -Psalm 121:1
It’s been a while since I stayed overnight at Mt. Irenaeus and even longer since I participated in an overnight with St. Bonaventure University men. Last Tuesday night while grabbing a bite to eat at La Verna Cafe on campus one of the young men involved Mountain ministry invited me to join them and I’m glad I did. Following a lovely dinner we moved into the cold and contemplatively walked from the House of Peace to Holy Peace chapel. It was so cold that I could hear the snow crunch under my shoes. Once inside the chapel we had some quiet time followed by readings and then one of the young men introduced the theme of the evening which was “New Beginnings.” Following a reading from the 9 Chapter of Acts of the Apostles by Br. Joe Kotula, OFM we separated into small groups and began to examine what new beginnings had happened or were happening our lives. Following that session we gathered together in the larger group and eventually the topic became forgiveness. The session lasted over two hours and there were lots of young men and some older ones too who shared what was on their heart this night in the middle of the Allegany County woods.
Eventually our session ended in the chapel and we made it back down the hill to the House of Peace and the warmth of the fireplace. I found myself visiting with my friend Br. Kevin and watching these young Bonaventure men enjoy themselves. I finally made it to bed and had a very peaceful sleep. Thanks to Sam and the other young men who made me feel so welcome. I look forward to doing this again and soon. This was my first men’s overnight as a student. There were actually two of us St. Bonaventure University graduate students in attendance. This has been a busy semester for me and this was a lovely way to take a break and very Franciscan too.
I made my way along the roads today to Mt. Irenaeus. It’s been a couple of Sunday since my last visit. Last week I was a bit under the weather with a touch of what the doctor said was pneumonia. Glad to have that behind me as I drive along this morning. The weather is an inviting fifty degrees and headed even warmer.
The leaves have all fallen from the trees and the woods are ready for winter. We’ve even had a couple of snow storms. Driving through Cuba, and then the back road to “Fightin’ Corners” and then a right turn down Route 275 to the hamlet of Nile. Then a right turn and a stop at Times Square and another right turn onto Allegany County Route 1. It’s only about four miles now to the Mountain as we call it. It’s been almost ten years since I first came here. What a journey. A journey of faith and growth. A left turn onto Hydetown Road from the paved surface and then almost two miles until I arrive. After making my way into the House of Peace with my offering of eggs, orange juice and coffee cake I spy the tell tale signs of students, a back pack or two and some books.
I stow my goods and then up the path to the chapel. The woods are lovely today and we’re enjoying an extended Indian Summer. My steps are light along the trail as I make my way to the chapel. Once inside I spot Josiah and the students from Houghton, joining them are students from Alfred State, and St. Bonaventure. I can see Michael from SBU. He’s a new face this year, a transfer and he loves the mountain. This is the intercollegiate weekend and there are lots of young faces, a professor from Houghton College, a few friars, a few seculars and a sprinkling of other visitors. I sit next to my friend Duane Karl, a regular hear at the Mountain. It’s good to be home after a couple of weeks away. Fr. Lou McCormick, OFM is our celebrant. We introduce ourselves as is customary at the Mountain. I’m no longer just a secular Franciscan from nearby Franklinville. I’m also a graduate student at St. Bonaventure University. I’m happy about my expanded role. This has been a wonderful fall and I have much to be grateful for. I brought my new Flip Camera and I’ve recorded some of my journey here today and some of the sights and sounds of Mt. Irenaeus. I hope that you enjoy them. Next week I’ll be out of town, but I’ll be back for Thanksgiving. I can’t stay away long. It’s the air that fills my lungs. It’s home!
I just learned how to use Animoto to create a video. This short video came from some pictures I’ve taken recently at Mt. Irenaeus. I hope you like them and that you’ll give Animoto a try. It’s a very neat Web 2.x application. Follow this link to the video. Animoto.com
I am writing from the House of Peace, the main house at Mt. Irenaeus. I have come here for a time away from, a retreat, on the Feast of St. Nicholas. It has been several years since I’ve been on a retreat like this. It’s just a day of quiet in a still spot with some of the most peaceful and holy men I know. Continue reading “Quiet time”