Retreat experience is a walk with Jesus to Emmaus
"Jesus Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!"
Those were the first words I heard chanted from the Men’s Emmaus Retreat Group as they processed into the 5:30 p.m. Mass at St. Dominic Church, closing out their weekend retreat one Sunday evening in the summer of 2010.
Of course, I believe Jesus Christ is risen but was a bit surprised by 35 to 40 grown men showing their love for Christ in such a demonstrative way. Even though it certainly got my attention that night, I didn’t give it much thought after that.
About five months later, my family and I attended the 12:15 p.m. Sunday Mass at St. Dominic. At the end of Mass, Dominican Father Michael O’Rourke, pastor of St. Dominic, announced that the men of Emmaus would be in the back of church to invite men to the upcoming retreat. After speaking with several of the men, I felt comfortable in accepting an application to the retreat that was to be offered in the next few weeks.
I was first introduced to retreats at the Divine Word Seminary in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, when I was about 12. A wonderful priest, Divine Word Father Jerome Ledoux, was so spiritual and wanted us to know Jesus Christ personally.
I will never forget the peace I felt on that first retreat. The love of Jesus was so profound I knew I would attend more retreats in the future. In the last 52 years, I have been called to private retreats, group retreats, silent retreats, handicapped retreats, interactive retreats and religious movement retreats as well.
What I learned early on was as long as Jesus Christ was at the center of the retreat, it didn’t matter the format, whether it’s silent or interactive. If we trust in the Lord, he will make the time spent on retreat with him very meaningful.
I attended my first Men’s Emmaus Retreat on a Friday night January 2011 at Rosaryville. The men’s ages ranged from the 80s to the 20s. There were husbands, fathers, grandfathers, sons, men from all walks of life. There were devout Catholics, some Christmas and Easter Catholics, some fallen-away Catholics, some non-Catholics and some who didn’t associate with any particular religion.
But we quickly learned, the reason we each had for coming didn’t matter. Neither did where we were in our individual faith walk. We would all take the leap of faith and trust God.
The weekend is based upon the story in Luke’s Gospel (24:13-35) about two people walking along the road to Emmaus. When they encountered Jesus, they did not recognize him at first but discussed with the stranger all that had occurred – Jesus’ crucifixion and death. Finally, when the stranger broke bread and said the blessing, it was then that their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus as the one who had accompanied them on their walk to Emmaus.
What made this weekend so special? I had only met these men on Friday night and didn’t know any of them from Adam. After two days, I felt as though I “recognized” Jesus in these men in a profound way that only the Holy Spirit could provide.
Since then I have become part of the team that puts on the retreats. There are no dues, no commitments or obligations following the retreat, but what I found is a unique brotherhood with the Emmaus Brothers who are simply trying to make a difference in the faith walk in other men.
In all honesty, part of my reason for returning to subsequent retreats could partially be selfish on my part. I have seen the power of our Lord Jesus Christ in the way he changes the hearts of men on this retreat. It's not something I see every day, and I want to see more of it. I have not witnessed earthshaking miracles or physical healings, but sometimes I feel it takes a miracle to change the hearts and minds of men.
Currently, we offer two men’s retreats each year. The next retreat is scheduled for the last weekend in January 2016 (there are no football games scheduled during the January retreat). If you would like more information, contact me at tripj213@yahoo. com or 231-5395.
Jim Musso is a parishioner of St. Dominic, New Orleans.