Growing Closer to God During Annual Retreats

Faculty and students set forth in all four directions last week to delve into questions as varied as: What does smoking meat have to do with God?, What do we mean when we pray the Lord’s Prayer?, and What’s “Domine, Ut Videam” got to do with being a Chelsea student?. We visited a cemetery, were visited by a parakeet, and played a Biblical version of Capture the Flag. As varied as the retreats were, the goal was universal — to discover ways to become our authentic selves, i.e., grow closer to God.

The Chelsea Upper School Girls attended their retreat at St. Bridget of Ireland’s Parish in Berryville, VA.  Br. Maria Evagrius Hayden, OSB, led the retreat: “How to Pray as we Ought: The Rosary as a Conversation with our Heavenly Father and Mother” (prayer booklet attached). Br. Evagrius talked about the salutations and petitions in the Our Father and Hail Mary, bringing new insights into the old, familiar prayers.  He spoke on the importance of using our body to better dispose our soul in prayer, using our imagination to unite our will to God’s, and using our minds and hearts to listen to God in that conversation (of prayer). The girls had the opportunity to go to Confession (almost all of them took this opportunity to receive the Sacrament), then there was plenty of time for quiet prayer in the chapel, or time to walk outside and talk with other girls, with teachers (Dr. Sullivan, Mrs. Schaffer, Mrs. O’Reilley), and with Br. Evagrius.  Lunch was lovely outside in the sunshine, and after the final talk, each girl was given a rose to remind themselves of Mary’s love, and that each time they pray a Rosary, they are presenting a crown of roses to their Heavenly Mother.  

Father Joseph van House, a Cistercian monk, led the MS Boys on their retreat.  He has taught young men at Cistercian Prep in Dallas, ranked as on of the top Catholic high schools in the country.  Fr. Joseph is currently a doctoral student at CUA, focusing on historical and systematic theology. He presented two interactive talks for the boys, the first on “Silence and Listening,” the second on “Christian Patience, Friendship, and Charity towards your peers.”  Moreover, heheard confessions, celebrated mass, and offered benediction for the MS Boys. Later in the day, Mr. Chris Foeckler delivered an engaging talk on the motto of Chelsea, Domine ut videam, that is, “Lord that I may see.”  During lunch the boys listened to the “Life of St. Martin of Tours,” while silently eating in the refectory.

While other classes were retreating into a day of silence and reflection, the 4th and 5th grades ventured out on a Lenten pilgrimage. This year’s destination was the John Paul II Shrine in Washington, D.C., where they were met by the familiar face of Virginia Nyce, former Chelsea and VIA teacher, who treated the group to a tour of the chapels there, filled with beautiful mosaics depicting mysteries of our faith and of salvation history, replete with profound symbolism inviting the beholder to meditate on these mysteries. Pilgrims were able to receive Confession, go to Mass, and explore the expansive museum filled with artifacts, video clips, writings, and interactive exhibits.

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