What a blessed Saturday it was! Yesterday, Sidney and I traveled to the majestic Clearwater Lodge near Newport, Washington, for a special retreat. But what made this particular Catholic retreat so “special,” you ask? Well, two reasons…
2. The retreat was my wife’s idea and she served as co-organizer alongside Hailey Eames, the chief go-getter extraordinaire of our group.
By 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, 20 of us showed up inside the Creekside Pavilion for a day of sacramental nourishment, spiritual growth, and fellowship. The retreat would be based on the theme of living in the world, not of the world. As we gathered and took our seats, it was obvious that Sid’s idea, Hailey’s tireless work, and God’s will had positioned us for a faith-filled experience.
The day started with mass. With the scenic Davis Lake as a backdrop, Fr. Jeff Lewis and Fr. Kevin Oiland, the two priests who started our young adult group, presided over a makeshift altar. As they processed in and our talented young adult singers proclaimed the entrance antiphon, I tapped Sidney and showed her my arm…goosebumps. Fr. Jeff set the tone for the day by delivering a homily that encouraged us to turn to God for all things—big and small.
When mass concluded, we ate breakfast and then Sidney was up! She outlined the day’s itinerary and then spoke from the heart. Using the Beatitude of Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, Sidney challenged us throughout the course of the day to recognize our spiritual bankruptcy and embrace the Holy Spirit. I couldn’t help but admire my wife. After just three years since becoming Catholic, Sidney was already organizing retreats and delivering reflections. Thanks be to God!
After Sidney finished, it was time for our retreat headliner. Sister Christiana Marie was kind enough to spend her day with our group and impart her wisdom upon us. Challenging us to humbly recognize that God establishes our identity while our earthly circumstances merely shape it, Sister Christiana reminded us to be full in spirit and dependent on the Lord. We then broke into small groups and discussed how Sister’s principles of identity, humility, and fidelity fit into our own lives.
The next phase of the retreat took us outside where we gathered for Lectio Divina, a type of prayer that focuses on examining scripture in an in-depth and immersive manner. Hailey masterfully led the exercise as we prayed through St. Luke’s account of the paralytic who was lowered down to Jesus into a crowded room through the roof. With the lake in front of us and the birds chirping above us, it was a soothing and reflective experience.
Next up was adoration and confession. We went back inside the Creekside Pavilion and spent a holy hour in front of the blessed sacrament. As adoration took place, Fr. Jeff and Fr. Kevin took their places outside the pavilion to hear confessions. It was my first time ever confessing outdoors and it felt so freeing to be “one with nature” while receiving this holy sacrament.
At lunch, Sidney and I sat at a table with Sister Christiana. She possesses such an engaging personality and it was such a pleasure to listen to her speak about her life and vocation.
The afternoon portion of the retreat started with a talk from Fr. Kevin Oiland about spiritual warfare. He took a refreshing approach of teaching us ways to be preemptive in our spiritual battles. For a topic that is mostly discussed via an “in the moment” situational context it was interesting to hear a perspective that was more preparative than reactive.
Fr. Kevin was followed by our friend and neighbor, Dylan Perry. We had the honor of listening to his testimony. It is not my place to discuss specifics about what he talked about but it did center on how he has grown with evangelization and how we can too. I admired his courage to stand up in front of us all!
With the content portion of the retreat starting to wind down, we broke into small groups for prayer. In these groups, we each took different roles in fostering a collaborative and holy session as one person would express their intentions, another person would pray for them, and the third person would call upon the Holy Spirit.
Once our prayer groups concluded, it would have been perfectly understandable for people to head home. However, we all wanted to extend the time we had together. While some stayed in the pavilion to chat, I joined a group that toured the premises of Clearwater Lodge. We took a short hike to a cross that was erected on top of an elevated rocky area that overlooked the lake. Much respect and admiration to Mother Kathryn Joseph for making the hike with us!
We also explored another rocky area with scenic lake views that required us crossing a shaky bridge. While admiring the water on the beautiful day, we took time to talk and laugh as a group.
By 4 p.m. we re-convened in the pavilion and said a closing prayer. We promised to do the retreat again next year and commented on what a fulfilling day it had been. I am proud of Sidney for pursuing the retreat and grateful to Hailey for doing so much work to make it happen. I am also thankful to Fr. Jeff and Fr. Kevin for the time, prayers, and guidance they consistently devote to our group. The Lord is at work and I am blessed to be around people who are answering his call and challenging me to do the same. Thanks be to God for our Spokane Valley Young Adult Catholic Group! Don’t Blink.