Agere Sequitur Esse. “Action follows Being.” -Saint Thomas Aquinas.
Recently, the students of Thomas More College were privileged to participate in a Lenten retreat directed by a longtime friend of the College, Father Paul Check. Father Check is a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut and the Executive Director of Courage International. In addition, he is a teacher of moral theology, holding a S.T.B from the Gregorian University in Rome and a S.T.L. from the University of the Holy Cross, also in Rome.
The retreat’s theme was “Life in Christ,” drawn from Saint Paul’s declaration in the Letter to the Galatians that “it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Including Holy Mass, Confession, individual spiritual direction, and five conferences, the focus of Father Check’s weekend mission was to, as he put it, “re-trace the way of Our Lord’s being in our own lives and actions as found in the Beatitudes.”
The five conferences offered between Friday evening and Sunday morning examined how it is possible to conform one’s life to Christ by dwelling on his virtues, such as the humility and fortitude he displayed in choosing to undergo his Passion.
“It is a maxim of the Angelic Doctor that grace perfects nature,” said Father Check. “Grace raises us up to share in the Divine life, yes, but it also allows us to live fully human lives at the same time. We become human by patterning our lives after the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord.”
Father Check began each conference with a prayer before the altar, inviting students to reflect and examine, to be silent and listen, to question, ponder, and pray. Friday and Saturday evening, he offered Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, giving those present the opportunity to “seek the face of the God of Jacob” more intimately.
“I enjoyed how he emphasized the beauty of a redemptive kind of suffering – it reminded me of St. Therese’s Story of a Soul, which we recently read in our Humanities course,” said senior Marie O’Brien.
“This was my first retreat,” said freshman Ethan O’Connor. “Although I wasn’t able to be there the whole time, I found it refreshing. I especially liked the theme: that “it is no longer I who live,” as well as the concept of surrender and learning to take your hands off things not actually in your control.”
In keeping with the penitential spirit of the last days of Lent, this weekend’s retreat offered a sustained moment of peace and detachment from the often hectic schedule of classes and assignments. As the first spring rains began to melt away the winter snow, renewing nature in its regular course, the students of Thomas More College had the opportunity to seek renewal in their own spiritual lives. It offered a chance to reflect seriously on what Blessed John Henry Newman called “no matter of words: a thing to be listened to carelessly, because we have heard it often before. The death and resurrection of Christ is ever a call upon you to die to time, and to live to eternity. Do not be satisfied with the state in which you find yourselves; do not be satisfied with nature; be satisfied only with grace.”