“Every Matter Under Heaven” from last Tuesday. We drew attention to plans underway by Michael Voris of ChurchMilitant.TV to organize a retreat, not only on a pleasure cruise line, but during Lent, and with the able assistance of Father John Zuhlsdorf, author of the weblog "What Does The Prayer Really Say?," and affectionately known as "Father Z."
We have also noticed the reaction from elsewhere, not only to this recently announced endeavor, but our reporting of it, including Catholic in Brooklyn, Abbey Roads. Even none other than The Crescat herself, Katrina "I'm not a Catholic celebrity just because I was on a short list of bloggers invited to an historic meeting at the Vatican" Fernandez, has weighed in.
But the reaction we will be reviewing more closely in this sequel to last Tuesday was found just a combox away, courtesy of one Christine Niles, hostess of the Fidelis Radio talk show "Forward Boldly" and author of the weblog Laudem Gloriae, devoted to the explanation and defense of Catholic tradition.
Sorry, but it all sounds like a whole lot of griping to me. I stand by my remarks that your complaints were "an ugly display of envy and sour grapes."
Actually, my dear, you have at least four reasons to be sorry. Since you chose to make this admonition public, my response will be in kind. I will examine your legitimate causes for regret forthwith.
You have an unnecessarily narrow definition of retreats, which come in all shapes & sizes. Some are made in absolute silence & enclosure, while others are characterized by complete freedom, conversation, and plenty of food. All a retreat means is to get away; the particulars of the retreat itself are up to the organizers.
"All a retreat means is to get away." You had best be quite sure of that, because ...
Words. Have. Meaning.
The word "retreat," in our case, is from the Latin word "retrahere" which means "to draw back." In our present usage, it is much more ...
1. a. The act or process of withdrawing, especially from something hazardous, formidable, or unpleasant.
b. The process of going backward or receding from a position or condition gained.
2. A place affording peace, quiet, privacy, or security.
3. a. A period of seclusion, retirement, or solitude.
b. A period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, or study: a religious retreat.
Nothing in this definition suggests anything other than the sort of meaning we have put forth, that it is more than simply "to get away," but is in fact doing so with a particular result in mind. Even "to draw back" is more precise than merely "to get away," as the movement implies deliberation, a purpose. The format of a retreat may vary, from a weekend in silence, to a thirty-day Ignatian exercise under spiritual direction without sequestering, but it is most certainly a deliberate break in routine for a pre-specified purpose.
Ergo, the meaning put forth here is not "unnecessarily narrow," but necessarily specific.
What you're actually doing with all this holier-than-thou griping is impugning the integrity & character of the retreat organizers, including the priest giving the talks.
No, what I'm actually doing is impugning the nature of the actions, having already drawn a clear distinction between the good character of the organizers themselves, and that which was problematic in their endeavor. Any preference toward a more severe (dare I say, "narrow") definition of a retreat, is what it is, PRECISELY because we are NOT "holier-than-thou." When we require a desert experience (as opposed to an oasis), we are obliged to follow the example of Christ, not of Mammon. I do not know Mr Voris' motives, nor those of the good Father. Indeed, I cannot possibly imagine what could possess two men of whom I have sufficient opinion that they would know better. I only know, and only submit, that their plans are terribly misguided, and I give specific reasons.
If you don't want to go, then don't. But this attempt to make attendees feel guilty is just silly.
I won't be needing your assistance to make that choice. I wouldn't go if they offered it for free. True, I would certainly want a Catholic priest along whose bonafides are in order (something which we mentioned is increasingly problematic on cruise lines), but why would I go during a penitential season, and why in the hell would I go alone? You see, my companion and best friend Sal would want to come too, and I would very much want to bring her. She studied ballroom dance for several years, and makes me look like a much better dancer than I really am. But I can barely afford one room, let alone two.
“Ano ang ibig mong sabihin? Dahil lamang na iyong binayaran para sa aking biyahe? Tanga! Ngayon kuha mo ako ng mojito!” (“What do you mean? Just because you paid for my trip? Fool! Now get me a mojito!”)
True, I could sleep on the couch, but that assumes we don't get caught, and simply planning on that good fortune in this setting would be bad, wouldn't it? Besides, I can sleep on the couch at home, which usually happens when I watch late night movies ... but that's another story. Back to explaining yours.
Well, thank you, Christine, but I'd rather my Advent be "blessed" than "happy." While you certainly mean well, we have yet another case where the meaning of words is diluted. In the Beatitudes, certain candy-@$$ translations would say "Happy are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs." Elsewhere, the Book of Psalms would mistakenly open with: "Happy is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked ..." No, what Christ meant was "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 5:3) Further, the psalmist wrote: "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers ..." (Psalm 1:1)
I can feel happy without ever knowing or caring whether I am blessed. I can be blessed without ever feeling happy. In fact, this is not about feelings at all, and this supposed "attempt to make attendees feel guilty," as one would learn the hard way in an introductory logic class, has nothing to do with how anyone would "feel."
What it has to do with, is our regard for what it is how we identify ourselves as Catholic, which, as is stated in our raison d'etre "... can involve more than avoiding sin and exercising virtue." We live our faith, not in a vacuum, but according to the seasons of the year. We read of this in the Book of Ecclesiastes.
For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant,
and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones,
and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace,
and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace. (3:1-8)
We could go on at some length, Christine, about your impugning MY "integrity & character." We could also seek the counsel of those with experience in arranging luxury cruises, who could explain just how difficult it would be to isolate a "retreat" from the occasions for decadent behavior thereupon. We could go so far as to elaborate on your impressive academic credentials, and easily surmise that you should have done an infinitely better job of making your case against a yutz like me, but you get the idea. So does anyone else reading this, don't you think?
Or don't you?
(Our thanks to the unidentified "Catholic in Brooklyn" for the images of the austere conditions of the Princess Cruise Lines, ostensibly conducive to spiritual reflection, and to Christine Niles for her invaluable contribution to this discussion. May the blessings of the season be upon both of them and their loved ones. Meanwhile, there's this song that's been going through my head for the last three days. Go figure.)