Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Breakfast Club - a Retreat?

The Breakfast Club movie seen as a retreat
Most of us are familiar with the John Hughes 1980s classic movie “The Breakfast Club” where five stereotypical high school students come together for Saturday detention. Strangers in the morning, they spend the day getting to know one another, leaving as friends in the late afternoon.

In a recent SQPN Secrets of Movies and Television: The Breakfast Club one panelist compared the movie to a road trip, but it could also be seen as a Teen Retreat. Indeed, the plot follows the same outline as many youth and adult retreats – albeit in a more secular manner.  


Arriving

The students arrive as individuals, seeing the world and others around them through a lens ground out of their own personal experiences. This includes conscious or unconscious social prejudices that they automatically apply to each other. 

In detention, as on retreats, they are isolated from the real world and its comforts. They are “up the mountain” in a semi-guided environment, only able to interact with those present. 

Although no one really wants to be there, they arrive. Silently taking their seats, they project non-verbal cues claiming territory, before lashing out verbally at one another.  Teens on spiritual retreat often arrive hesitant, tentative, clinging to existing friendships, and using non-verbal cues to communicate with people they don’t know well. 

Activities

In a retreat, a series of activities are introduced to help break down barriers and facilitate thoughtful discussion. Activities in retreats loosen tension and break the ice. 


In the movie, the “activities” are generated through interactions with a frustrated, angry authority figure. These encounters pull the students toward one another in resistance and sometimes open rebellion toward him. This creates discomfort, forcing ugly banter that reveals prejudices. 

But at lunchtime, Bender takes a risk, opening up about his abusive home life. This initial glimpse behind the tough-guy mask he presents for protection is a turning point in how others begin to see him. 

After lunch, they embark on an adventure through the hallway that immediately tests the new loosely formed bonds. Bender’s sacrifice on behalf of the team reveals another layer to this character - a willingness to protect the other’s futures because he believes he doesn’t have one.

Small Group

When Bender sneaks out of isolation it’s now time for “small group” discussions; the more intimate sharing where people begin to pull down the masks they wear. Small group discussions create lasting bonds.

In the movie, small group occurs when Andy and Brian confess, with raw emotion, the actions that landed them in detention. The vulnerability Bender displayed earlier, now becomes an opportunity for each to admit to the burdens and stress born out of familial expectations and strained personal relationships. These testimonials allow each character not only to see the human person behind their stereotyped group, but also gain a new perspective to compare the life they’ve lived with others around them, opening their eyes to other ways of living, and possibly inspiring them to see a new path for themselves.

In a spiritual retreat, small group leaders would guide these discussions towards an understanding and acceptance of the love, grace, and mercy available to each of us through God. Reconciliation would be available to confess our sins and receive absolution, freeing us to walk away from what was and walk toward what we can become.

Coming Down the Mountain

Inevitably, the question arises, “What happens on Monday?”  Unexpectedly, this experience changed them, as they crossed the barrier from stereotyped strangers to unlikely friends. We see this question often at Teen Confirmation retreats, wondering whether their new friends will still be their friends “in real life.” Specifically – at school. 

At a spiritual retreat, small group leaders provide encouragement to support one another in their faith outside of retreat. Generally, the teens also continue meeting weekly to further development of these positive bonds with new faith-filled friends.

The last night of teen retreats typically ends with music and games, a celebration that shakes off the intensity of the day, and The Breakfast Club shares this with music and dancing toward the end of the movie.  

Finally, at the end of retreat – and the movie – each of them leaves a different person than they were when they arrived. They will never see the other person at school the same way again, knowing that each life has its own set of challenges and is valued.

Whether you think Road Trip or Retreat, the movie The Breakfast Club is one that stands up to the test of time and continues to resonate with its viewers because it captures a snapshot of real life experiences.  For a deeper discussion about the themes found in the movie, check out the SQPN Podcast “Secrets of The Breakfast Club.”




Friday, January 22, 2021

Defend the Truth and Defeat the Lies

For 48 years we have lived with the legal right to murder the most precious among us – an unborn child.

For 48 years, our courts continued to abdicate their responsibility to re-examine what some call a cowardly decision to not answer the question, “When does life begin?” 

For 48 years, men and women of science have conclusively, clearly, and visibly proven that life begins in the womb. So much is now understood about this growing life that doctors not only can operate on babies in utero, but also save the life of a preemie. Babies born early, between 24-30 weeks, have between a 70-99% chance of survival. 

For 48 years, our culture continues to ignore the scientific truth about life. Boundaries that once limited killing the developing child within a specific gestational age continue to be pushed forward. Today, seven states boast no restrictions on abortion, allowing the child to be killed up to and including the moment of birth. 

Earlier this week, newly inaugurated President Biden said, 

“…we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured…

“There is truth and there are lies, lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders…to defend the truth and defeat the lies.”

The truth is that God invests life in each of us at the moment of conception. 

Unapologetically pro-life
For 48 years this has been and remains our cross to bear. We live in a country that refuses to value human life. Our culture prefers to believe the easy lie, born from manufactured and manipulated facts. This is our suffering that we must bring to the foot of the cross. 

For 48 years, there have been and continue to be people committed to ending abortion through Prayer, Outreach, and Education, striving ever forward to bring truth to light and refusing to give up on faith, hope, and love. 

We are a people of hope and today we are called to Prayer.

  • For God to change hearts
  • For eyes to be opened
  • For truth to be revealed

We are a people of love and today we are called to show Christ’s love.

  • To those facing a “choice;” that we meet them with compassion and support, not just for a day, but for the journey.
  • To those complicit in this lie, that when they are awakened, they find support in seeking a new path.
  • And especially to those who at one time felt trapped, without a choice, so they made the choice. We offer them a chance to know Christ’s healing love and redemption. 

We are a people of faith, trusting that for 48 years God used our suffering to bring people to Him, for His Glory. He can and will use each of us to reach out and show Christ to others. 

And we believe the Scripture. In a letter from St. Paul to the Romans, he wrote,

 “…there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” (Romans 8:18) 

On this 48th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, please join others in a Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. Heed the call to offer help, support, love, and healing to those suffering from the “lies told for power and profit.” Heed the responsibility to defend the truth.

Below is a list of organizations that promote and defend the truth about abortion or offer caring love and support to those considering an abortion or leaving the abortion industry. Please support them.

  • CareNet  - A network of affiliated pregnancy centers with accurate and helpful information about pregnancy and offers post-decision support.
  • Heartbeat International - Option Line - The most expansive network of pro-life pregnancy resource centers in the world, with over 2,800 affiliated pregnancy help locations in more than 60-countries around the world to provide alternative to abortion.
  • Project Rachel - a ministry of the Catholic Church in the U.S. to those who have been involved in abortion, providing an integrated network of services, including pastoral counseling, support groups, retreats and referrals to licensed mental health professionals. It is open to all . . . people of all faiths or no faith. 
  • And Then There Were None  - "A registered non-profit organization that exists to help abortion clinic workers leave the abortion industry. We believe that a clinic worker's life is valuable, too. As former clinic workers, we have a different perspective than others may have - we’ve been in their shoes. And we used those shoes to walk away. We believe that the end of abortion starts with abortion clinic workers leaving their jobs and finding healing from their past work. We’re committed to helping them through the ENTIRE journey."
  • 40 Days for Life An internationally coordinated 40-day campaign that aims to end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach, and a peaceful all-day vigil in front of abortion businesses.
  • March for Life  - "We march because we envision a future world where the beauty and dignity of every human life are valued and protected. We promote the beauty and dignity of every human life by working to end abortion—uniting, educating, and mobilizing pro-life people in the public square."





Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Receiving God’s Message in the Eucharist

Sitting in Mass and my son is fidgeting again, playing some small game in his mind that involves moving his hands in a repetitive pattern. Restless, not unruly, just patently fidgety, hands in constant motion.

During the Consecration and Elevation of the Eucharist, I remind myself that this child, unexpected and unplanned, is a gift from God. At his baptism nine-years ago, we dedicated him to God and have prayed for him to know and follow God’s purpose in his life ever since. At times there is a sense of solidarity with Hannah and her gift of Samuel.

And God definitely has a purpose for this child. More than a few times when he was young, he’s surprised us with a comment or observation demonstrating an attunement to our faith. When asked, “Where did you hear this?” or “How did you think of this?” he would innocently reply, “God told me.”

As Father makes his way through the pews distributing Communion, I receive and then hear a small gasp beside me. My son looks up at me quizzically because his hand does not contain the small round host commonly used; rather he holds a pointed triangle broken from the large Communion Host elevated at the altar. After my nod of acceptance, he consumes it. Kneeling he rubs the palm of his hand before whispering close to me, “It stabbed me when Father placed it in my hand.”

Stunned at all the little coincidences: my prayer dedicating him to the church, Hannah and Samuel, the piercing in the hand of the consecrated Eucharist, and wondering at what this might mean, my son leans over as if to answer my thoughts and whispers quite seriously.

“This is God telling me to be still and more disciplined in church.”


Holy Communion

Image: Pixabay 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Be Watchful! Be Alert! Actively Waiting for Christ

Be Watchful! Be Alert! Actively Waiting for Christ during Advent
Did anyone else notice that all of the Sunday readings throughout November focused on a call to action? God doesn't want us to be passive in our relationship with Him. He wants us to live active lives doing all things for Him. He has given us the talents and he wants us to do something with them for Him.

And doing for Him also means doing for others.
 
In Matthew 22:36-40 Jesus gave us a very simple formula for the Law of Love in the Greatest Commandment.
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"
He said to him,
"You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

From Matthew 25:1-13 Jesus tells a parable that cautions us to be prepared and stay awake as we wait for him.  A week later we heard another parable from Matthew 25:14-30 about using talents to increase their return.  Like the servants, our talents are gifts on loan from God and we have a responsibility to use these gifts, to develop them and see what they yield.  Like the master in the parable, God will come without notice to claim the return and give you a new talent. 

The Sunday before Advent started, we celebrated Christ the King, the end of our Liturgical Year, with the Gospel reading from Matthew that defines Corporal Works of Mercy, outlining the very action God asks from us out of our Love for Him and one another.

Advent opened this week with another call to action when, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! 

Jesus isn't asking us to wait quietly, passively, but with action. Be alert. Be aware. Be prepared!

What are we waiting for? We have received an invitation to know God, to love Him. Too often, particularly during the holiday season, we are too busy. We get caught up in what we think we have to do, our duties, our responsibilities, our worries.  It’s not just about the doing, it’s about the loving. We can still do what we need to do for our jobs and our families while showing God how much love Him, by taking care to express our love for one another in our actions. Christ is God’s gift to the world and He will return. In the preparation of our own homes this Advent season, don’t forget to use your actions to also show the world and the Lord how much we love Him by loving one another.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Rediscovering Community in Adoration

A few years ago our parish instituted a beautiful ministry they call Bringing Us Into Loving Discipleship, or BUILD, that consists of gathering one night a month for a simple shared meal (pizza or potluck) before moving into the sanctuary for praise and worship, a brief talk, and an hour of Eucharistic Adoration with worship songs comingling in the silence.

With the music, Adoration during BUILD is nearly identical to the Adoration experience that I’ve come to love and crave from years of serving on our teen Confirmation retreats. After months of pandemic lockdown, away from the Eucharist, and then cautiously reopened with so many restrictions, no touching, limited Mass times, directed seating, and fewer people, I’ve continued to feel disconnected and separated from my parish community.

Until unexpectedly a BUILD night was announced, our first in-person parish event since the pandemic.

While this gathering doesn’t include food and still requires masks and physical separation, there is a palpable community difference as we come together for Adoration that isn’t present during Mass, with all its rules and restrictions. We say hello to one another without fear. We are allowed to choose our seats, independently respectful of physical distance. We visit quietly with friends we haven’t seen in months.

As we sing the opening song, we hear squeals and babbles from a young toddler known in our parish for her major health struggles – such a beautiful sound, her presence a powerful testimony to God’s love and promise, an answer to our prayers for her life.

Finally the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. We settle into Adoration and a sense of relief and peace washes over me. Surrender. Trust. Tears.

My 8-year old sits next to me, enticed by the promise that he can read a book while sitting with Jesus. “What is Adoration?” he asked when I invited him.

“Spending time in the same room as God,” I replied. “The same as when you and I sit together in the same room at home and watch tv or read.” This explanation satisfies him, and he patiently watches, listens, and when I nod at him, picks up his book and begins to read, occasionally glancing up at the monstrance as if to make sure He’s still there.

In this moment, I feel alive again, grounded and connected after feeling untethered these past months. Sitting in Adoration with my church family and the prayerful music is a shot of adrenaline, a renewal of spirit. Memories happily blur into a watercolor of people, retreats, prayer. The memories of many God-filled moments when He was so powerfully present fills me up, consumes me. I’m overwhelmed in a profound rush of love, as though I’ve had a peek behind the veil of heaven that leaves you unable to breathe and suspended in place for an eternal moment wanting to burst with love for those around you.

God created us for community.

This is where I am supposed to be, not looking ahead and worrying about the future. My heart is full being here, in community with my church family again.

Lord, thank you for so many blessings. Thank you for this gift. I trust you Lord that what comes will come, let me not wallow in what might have been, but only Bless your Holy Name and sing your praise and glory all the days of my life. The world could end around us, but we are here in your presence praying together for the world.



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