For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. Matt. 18:20
As we pulled into Shrine Mont we were greeted by that “old familiar feeling,” that sense of sameness and almost friendship from a place we know so well. The routine was just as familiar: park, unpack, visit, explore. In a matter of minutes, the road seemed far behind us and away–barely a memory, subsumed in by beauty, hope, and peace. Our Parish Retreat had begun and we were ready for the change.
Every year we are blessed by God to gather and visit, renew old ties, and create new bonds of love and friendship. Each year we are blessed by beautiful weather (no matter what it’s like) and this year, we all gave thanks for the incredible blue skies and cool nights. A trek to the Cross along the Via Dolorosa (the Way of the Cross) on Saturday morning was a spiritual journey of exploring the depth of God’s love through the sacrifice of the Son. Saturday afternoon was open to any one of many opportunities which fed and uplifted each of us: fishing, strolling, reading, “porching,” napping–in a word, being. I was blessed by a hike to North Mountain alone with William, truly a gift I will never forget.
Saturday evening brought the “s’mores roast,” croquet, and frisbee on the upper field, trading stories of life and laughing as we re-lived moments of past Shrine Mont gatherings. As we retired, with bellies full of marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers, we were greeted by the music of our traditional porch guitar circle, where we gathered to sing together.
Sunday worship was beautiful and unhurried, blessed by the presence of God and adorned by the hearts and spirits of our Creator Family. Then that familiar routine was back: pack and prepare for the not-so-long drive off the mountain. Then lunch which, as with all the Shrine Mont meals, was filled with good food, the sounds of love, laughter, and happy companionship.
There’s a wooden archway across the entrance/exit to the Shrine Mont Circle, and it is only upon leaving from the weekend that you can read its message: “Depart in Peace.” As we pulled away and headed for home, filled with the Holy Spirit, we were grateful for that “old familiar feeling” of having been in the presence of our Lord and that sense of sameness and absolute friendship from a place we know so well.
“then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.” Deut. 30:3
Until next year… grace and peace in Christ,
Father Bill Burk†