There is nothing quite like being back at the shore of the Atlantic ocean! For me, being by the ocean is an almost mystical experience, simultaneously relaxing, refreshing, and exhilarating.
Of course, one of the consequences of climate change is how the oceans may become more threatening to coastal communities - as Hurricane Sandy illustrated in this region just three years ago. But, growing up in New York at a different time, the ocean was generally seen as our great friend (as well as a supreme source of relief from summer's heat).
The Jersey Shore was the sight of our spring retreat in the novitiate, our community-wide retreat in the last Jubilee Year, and another on-the-boardwalk retreat for our community's 150th in 2008. For now at least, the ocean still seems more friend than foe. It remains a perfect setting for a retreat!
So this week, Paulist priests and seminarians from all over the country are gathering at the Redemptorist Retreat House in Long Branch, NJ, on the famous Jersey Shore for what I anticipate will be a wonderful community retreat in observance of the current “Year of Consecrated Life.” This special “Year of Consecrated Life” is a gift to all religious communities from Pope Francis, who is himself a lifelong member of an Institute of Consecrated Life, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
In his message in preparation for this year of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis identified three aims for the year. They are “to look to the past with gratitude,” “to live the present with passion,” and “to embrace the future with hope.” These three aims will form the thematic focus for our community retreat this week in the relaxing, refreshing, and exhilarating atmosphere of the amazing Atlantic ocean.