STEUBENVILLE, OH—“We’re meant to be bringing the Logos to touch people,” said Father Francis Martin at the 2013 Priests, Deacons, and Seminarians Retreat at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
Talking about the power of the Word of God, Father Martin, renowned Scripture scholar and professor emeritus of New Testament at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., said that the clergy must strive to fight the deterioration of society.
“We cannot stand by. It could get scarier, but we just have to say, ‘I might not have the guts to go to jail or get killed, but if I’m supposed to do that, You’ll be there—and I can rely on You,’” said Father Martin, who has been a leading speaker at this retreat for many years.
Held June 17 to 21, the retreat offered daily Mass, opportunities for confession, eucharistic adoration, and praise and worship, plus ample time for quiet prayer and fellowship.
Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of the Diocese of Steubenville, discussed how the world’s standards divide people into categories by emphasizing love of friends and hatred of enemies.
“We are not to discriminate in our love, our priestly, ministerial service because the Son of God unconditionally loves,” he explained. “Jesus points out clearly that our human activity must exceed world standards.”
Dr. John Bergsma and Dr. Scott Hahn, both Franciscan University theology professors, converts to Catholicism and popular speakers, spoke on the reality of spiritual warfare within the clergy in their talks.
Bergsma focused on sacrament of confession as being one of the main tools for spiritual warfare in the Catholic life. Describing the stereotypical view of confession, including the uninteresting Saturday afternoons, dust motes floating in the nearly-silent church, and sleepy, solemn penitents, he explained that there is so much more going on than meets the human eye.
“It doesn’t seem very exciting,” he said. “But if we saw with the eyes of faith, we would hear the clash of shield and buckler on sword and spear. We would hear the screams of the spirits and the breaking of chains as people are experiencing release and freedom in the spiritual life. That’s the vision we need to communicate to the Catholic people.”
Similarly, Hahn stressed the significance of seeing liturgical worship as spiritual warfare.
“Every Mass we celebrate the liturgy of the Word and the Sacrament,” said Hahn. “Every liturgy is a celebration and a participation in this unspeakable, this ineffable mystery of Divine love that is life-giving.”
He encouraged participants to stay strong in their vocations and never to give up hope, mentioning Christ’s words, “And so it is, when two or three come together ‘in my Name, I am with them.’”
“Nobody enters the priesthood because this is something of a reward,” he added. “No: it is a remedy. Not only for the weaknesses of the laity, but for yours as well. To give you what you need, what we need, to make up for what you lack and what we lack as laypeople. But the joy together in Eucharistic adoration is what not only makes us sons of God, but will take us from grace to glory and make us saints.”
Father Sean Sheridan, TOR, president of Franciscan University thanked the clergy for coming to participate in the retreat.
“We as men who have been called by God in a very special way to witness to our Faith… makes me think of the stories in the Gospel of how Jesus called the first disciples,” he said. “And the quick response we see from so many of them—that they dropped their nets and followed the Lord. Dropping our nets is something we have done to be able to be here. To be able to follow what God has asked each one of us to do.”
The retreat-goers found the blend of talks and prayer time to be remarkably inspiring.
“I’ve been coming for 30 years,” said Father Bryan Eyman, a Byzantine Catholic priest of the Eparchy of Parma in Ohio. “It’s great teaching, great fellowship.”
Tom Marshall of Gardner, Massachusetts, who will be ordained a deacon in two years, said this is his first time at the retreat and that it was “very spiritual and very uplifting.”
“It’s definitely very sustaining,” he said. “This gives me something to take back to my diaconate classes.”
Upcoming Franciscan University summer conferences include the St. John Bosco Conference for Catholic Educators (July 17-21), the Applied Biblical Studies Conference for anyone seeking a deeper knowledge and understanding of Scripture (July 24-26), and the Defending the Faith Conference, which focuses on Catholic apologetics (July 26-28).
For more information, including a complete list of conferences for adults and youth, visit www.franciscanconferences.com.