Tuesday, February 28, 2023

A Missing Peace

Back in January I went on a weekend retreat at Holy Family Retreat Center in West Hartford. I try to go once each year, and boy oh boy, whenever I do, it is such a needed mental health break. From early evening on Friday until Sunday afternoon, it’s an opportunity to disconnect from the frantic everyday world. During the retreat, there are a lot of prayer sessions, music, discussion groups, Confession, and two separate Masses. My main goal on retreat is to take at least two naps per day and avoid looking at my smartphone as much as possible. 

In January, I almost reached my goal. I napped twice on Saturday but only once on Sunday. Still, that’s way better than my average weekend, and of course, it’s a zillion times better than the average Monday through Friday work week, when finding time to take a nap is about as likely as winning the PowerBall lottery. (And I never buy tickets, so that reduces my odds from, um, zero down to zero.)
Every year they have a different theme at the Men’s retreat. This year the theme is “A Missing Peace.” (Get it? It’s peace, not piece.) During the seminars, they discussed the many obstacles to achieving inner peace, including: pride, greed, the need to exert power over others, always having to be right, fear, etc. 

In the discussion groups, many Catholic saints were quoted, offering wise counsel on how to have peace in a tumultuous world. One quote kind of jumped out at me. St. Francis de Sales said, “Never be in a hurry. Do everything quietly and in a calm spirit.”

When I heard that quote, I thought to myself, “Really? Never hurry? I guess Saint F.D.S. never tried to merge onto I-84 during rush hour. If you don’t hurry, you’ll never get home.”

During all the terrific seminars and discussions on retreat, I was surprised they never mentioned the most profound quote about inner peace ever uttered. It’s not from the Bible, nor was it spoken by a Catholic saint, but it’s still awesome.

Remember the movie, “Field of Dreams”? In the climactic scene toward the end of the film, the character played by James Earl Jones explains to the character played by Kevin Costner why people will come to their magical baseball field. Jones intones (as only he can), “For it is money they have and peace they lack.”
Every time I watch that movie – which has to be at least 20 times since it came out in 1989 – I let out an audible gasp when James Earl Jones says that line. It really hits home. Yes, we have money. Sure, not everyone is rich. But in our current American culture even people who are considered poor have cell phones, flatscreen TVs, unlimited information, and multiple entertainment options. And those of us who are middle class have all those things times ten. 

Anyway, we have so much stuff nowadays: money and credit cards and closets full of clothing and 190 channels on the cable TV and wifi access to the Internet with dozens of streaming options and realistic video games and multiple services that will deliver food to our front door via a smartphone app. But does our culture have peace, true inner peace of the soul? Ha, not ever close.

So, what we need, as James Earl Jones explained, is the nostalgia of baseball. No wait. I’m sorry. That was the focus of the movie, and it might be true for some people, such as me. But the theme of the retreat weekend emphasized that the source of true inner peace in our hectic world is Jesus. The Lord offers us the peace that passes all understanding. Like the meme says: “Know Jesus, know peace. No Jesus, no peace.”
I highly recommend going on a weekend retreat. It’s good for the soul. And I highly recommend the nostalgia of baseball, especially now that Spring Training has begun. Jesús y béisbol are a wonderful combination. (After all, Jesus was an all-star pitcher for the Nazareth Nine. That’s when He gave His famous Sermon on the Mound.)

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