Along with snow, the rigor of the winter semester at Thomas More College can often be challenging for students. Time needs to be taken for leisure, and more importantly, opportunities for spiritual renewal. Last weekend, the College was blessed to hold a Lenten retreat hosted by Father Shannon Collins and Father Sean Kopczynski from the Fathers of Mercy, a Roman Catholic missionary order dedicated to serving the faithful through the sacraments, retreats and other works.
The Fathers arrived on Friday evening, taking time to chat with students and faculty at dinner. The retreat itself began Saturday morning, with an 8:00 Mass offered according to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. In his homily, Father Kopczynski introduced the theme of the retreat, “Out of Egypt,” explaining to students present the spiritual significance of Egypt found in the Book of Exodus.
Egypt, as he explained it, represents idolatry and recurring sin, out of which God brought his people through the leadership of Moses. As Christians, Father Kopczynski said, we must strive constantly to bring our souls out of the spiritual Egypt of sin and temptation, especially during the season of Lent.
After Mass, breakfast was served, and like all meals of this weekend, the community ate in silence to reflect on the message given at Mass.The retreat resumed with a mid-morning conference, followed by the Rosary and the Angelus, offered throughout the weekend, as well as Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, meditations, and numerous opportunities for Confession and spiritual direction. Although Confession and Mass are offered daily on campus, many students took advantage of this special opportunity for a more thorough examination of conscience.
Another talk was given in the late afternoon, this time on Death. Fr. Shannon noted that, “If you remember your end, you will not sin.” The retreat adjourned for the evening with a short meditation on the meaning of Passiontide by Fr. Shannon, in which he compared Christ’s evading His enemies until His hour to the Church’s veiling of herself during Lent, waiting with Christ for His Passion
The Extraordinary Form was offered again on Sunday Morning. The College choir chanted the parts of the Mass, including the Lenten hymn “Parce Domine” and Byrd’s polyphonic “Ave Verum Corpus.” Fr. Kopczynski’s homily centered on the virtue of courage, where he urged students to follow the brave examples of saints such as Joseph, Maria Goretti, Therese of Lisieux, and Catherine of Siena.
The example of the school’s holy patron, Saint Thomas More, was used throughout the weekend as a type for Catholics striving to attain holiness and act with courage in our time. The retreat’s topics included the occult, materialism, and how one to overcome spiritual sloth.
Freshman George Paul Mendy said that he appreciated the conferences. “Fr. Kopczynski’s sermon moved my heart so much. It was a real eye-opener.” His classmate Ann Halnon said she “really enjoyed the traditionalism” evident throughout the retreat. Another attendee mentioned that, “it was really refreshing to move completely from the academic focus for a short while and focus purely on our spiritual mindset during Lent.”
Throughout the academic year, Thomas More College hosts retreats to replenish and nourish the students’ spiritual lives.
“Our Lord Himself went in the desert for days and regularly withdrew from the hurley-burley of life for quiet contemplative prayer,” said President Fahey. “He did so, I would suggest, so that we saw the need always to create moments of peace and detachment so that we could draw closer to God and see to the nourishment of our souls.”
The Fathers of Mercy are a community founded in 1808 in France after the Revolution. Their charism emphasizes the spiritual works of mercy, specifically working through preaching and the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist.
Fr. Shannon was formerly a chaplain at Mother Angelica’s Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and has been a guest on EWTN.