‘We walked in as men of faith and integrity, we walked out as men of valor’
best describes the two-day retreat organized for Singles (men) at the pristine and silent St. Gaspar Retreat Center at Kithaganur Colony in Bangalore on the 9th of November 2019. Away from our homes and the chaos of the city we had come to experience a transformation like never before. The program began with the participants being led into praise and worship by the music ministry. The hall was soon filled with chants of “hallelujah” and we were able to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit amidst us.
Our first session was on Catholic Manhood by Preetham D’Souza who explained how different it is from worldly standards of masculinity. As Catholic men, we are called to be priests, prophets and kings. We understood that it is our duty to be good examples so that the world would come to know that true masculinity is not toxic, rather it completes God’s creation by complimenting the feminine. He ended the session with a quote by St. Jose Maria Escriva:
‘Don’t say this is the way I am, it’s my character. It’s your lack of character’’.
The second session was on Sons of the Father by Robert focussed on one of the most cherished yet complicated relation – that which we have with our father. It was about reconciling with our father and how to build our relationship with them. Men tend to feel more, yet they express less and this lies at the core of this delicate relationship. After some time of intense prayer in the chapel, there was silence, in which we remembered the bitter-sweet moments we’d had with our father. Two of our senior married brothers stood as proxies in place of our fathers near the altar, and each of us spoke to them as we would have to our father. This helped us to be reconciled with our father in our hearts. All the hurt, pain and bitterness was gone and we were ready to renew our relationship with them. After this, the priests celebrated the Eucharist.
Our third session was on discernment and titled God’s Signposts. It was conducted by Gerard D’Sa and was inspired by C.S. Lewis’s quote:
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pain.”
Gerard spoke about how God places His signposts on our paths to guide us. To take the right decisions in life he taught us the technique to discern through a procedure with eight steps:
- Identify and formulate the decision to be made or the issue to be resolved.
- Pray for openness to God’s will and for freedom from prejudgment
- Gather all the necessary information.
- State all the reasons for and against each alternative in the proposal.
- Do a formal evaluation of all advantages and disadvantages.
- Observe the direction of your will while reflecting on the advantages and disadvantages.
- Ask God to give you feelings of consolation about the preferred option
- Make your decision and live it.
After this was a discussion with our brothers on what signposts God had placed on our paths. The last session for the day was Band of Brothers by Darrel D’Souza about which Robert Rivers once said,
“Brothers aren’t simply close; brothers are knit together.”
We were guided about various kinds of friendships, emphasis being laid on building virtuous friendships and what breaks brotherhood. Lastly, he shared the three key attributes of building brotherhood:
- I am my brother’s keeper
- I offer loving correction
- Receiving Correction
After this session, we got soaked in praise and worship and then headed out for the most exciting event of the day with dried wood on our backs – a bonfire! Amidst the flames, we took time to honour our brothers while relishing the deliciously-barbecued chicken.
The next day being Sunday began with the Holy Eucharist. After breakfast, the first session of the day was Preparing for Sacrifice by Jimmy Xavier. He dealt with topics like chastity, dating and getting ready for the Sacrament of matrimony inspired by Father Sandeep’s quote:
“It’s not about finding the one but about building and nurturing yourself for the ‘one’.”
The major takeaway from this session was about the five ways to prepare for marriage:
- Practice virtue
- Be financially wise
- Be pure
- Seek wisdom
- Learn and practice the faith
After this, we went to the chapel for a time of intense prayer and worship aiming to cleanse ourselves of evil thoughts. We promised to refrain from every impure thought and deed and to remind us always of this promise we were given a blessed ring and Rosary to seek Mama Mary’s help whenever we felt tempted to go astray.
The next session Brother’s Keeper was by Mithun who guided us about ‘accountability’ inspired by the quote:
“It’s my responsibility that I carry my brother along with me to heaven”
and how we’re not only responsible for our own acts, but that my brother too leads a virtuous life pleasing to Jesus. Similarly, it’s also my duty to be answerable to my brother, be truthful about my acts, and remember that he is not my judge but my companion who desires to hold me from going astray. He taught us the practical methods for building and maintaining relationships which facilitate accountability among us brothers, how this accountability may fail and the tips to deal with it.
Their last session was Fight or Die by Brandon. He briefly summarised all the previous sessions and encouraged us to be witnesses for Christ. This was our last step before we would emerge as Men of Valor. It is no longer only the priest’s duty to evangelise, but each one of us is called to evangelise for Christ. He taught us about the nature, need and methods of evangelisation. He talked about Ephesians 6:10-11 which says,
“Finally be strong in the Lord with His power and strength. Put on the whole armor of God to be able to resist the cunningness of the devil”.
He gave us tips on how to prepare ourselves for spiritual battle:
- Make morning offering
- Attend Mass daily
- Spend time in personal prayer
- Pray the Rosary
- Immerse yourself in Eucharistic Adoration
- Pray in tongues
- ‘Examination of conscience’ every night
- Go for Confession as often as possible
After this, we gathered in the hall for the last session of praise and worship and let go of ourselves with shouts of Hallelujah, praying in tongues, lifting hands, clapping, thanking and adoring God as our brothers from the music ministry sang their hearts out in praise of God. Our last memories from the retreat were praying before the relic of Saint Gaspar and pledging to stay connected with each other. Indeed we felt transformed into Men of valor, ready to bear witness to Our Lord.