'A sense of conversion' - A bishop reflects on the Mundelein retreat

Eucharistic Adoration Credit Elisa Pires via JMJ Rio 2013 Flickr CC BY NC SA 20 CNA 2 5 15 Elsa Pires via JMJ Rio 2013/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Praying daily before the Eucharist with more than 250 other U.S. bishops was, for Bishop James Wall of Gallup, the highlight of a seven-day episcopal retreat held this week at Mundelein Seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

"We had the talks from Fr. Cantalamessa, which were excellent, a great homily each day; but for me the highlight of the retreat was every night having the bishops gather in silence before our Lord present in the Eucharist. It was an opportunity to pour your heart out to the Lord, but even more importantly to listen to him, and to receive his direction in all of this."

"That was where I drew a lot of strength, in the sense of renewal, recommitment, conversion, really to be the shepherd, or bishop, that our Lord wants me to be. I drew a lot from that Holy Hour every night at 7 o'clock," Bishop Wall told CNA Jan. 10. "I loved the Holy Hour."

The bishops of the US went on retreat Jan. 2-8 at Mundelein Seminary, in the Chicago suburbs. Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., who has been preacher to the papal household since 1980, directed the retreat. Pope Francis had asked the nation's bishops to go on retreat together, and offered Fr. Cantalamessa for the time of prayer.

"The effect on me was very positive," Bishop Wall said.

The retreat consisted of two conferences per day given by Fr. Cantalamessa, each nearly an hour, as well as a Mass at which the Capuchin preached. Then in the evening, the bishops gathered for a Holy Hour.

"For me, really the highlight of the whole retreat was every night at 7 o'clock we made a Holy Hour. So you have all the bishops gathering together praying before our Lord present in the Eucharist, and for me that was very positive, it had a very positive effect on me."

The Holy Hours were inspiring for Bishop Wall, and recalled for him the day of prayer and penance at the US bishops' autumn general assembly.

"That was one of the best days I've ever had with my brother bishops because there we were, all of us together, six and a half hours of Eucharistic Adoration, reflecting on the Word, hearing some powerful talks."

The Holy Hours "reminded me of that," he said, "because here we all were, taking the time to be on retreat with each other, ultimately to allow the Lord to speak to our heart and guide us."

"Coming off the retreat, I have a great sense of renewal, and strengthening in my whole purpose and calling as a bishop."

Bishop Wall described "a great respect for silence" during the retreat, and noted that "there were lots of places to find good quiet time to reflect and pray, and read … it was an excellent retreat."

He mentioned that he had brought with him on retreat, for reading during Holy Hours, Complete My Joy, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix' Dec. 30, 2018 apostolic exhortation on the family. "It helped me think about how is it that I am going to speak to the family," Bishop Wall said.

The retreat was focused on Christ's commission of the 12 apostles, and the apostolic mandate, centred on the verse: "And he made that twelve should be with him, and that he might send them to preach."

Bishop Wall called Fr. Cantalamessa "an amazing man, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit." Having been on a retreat directed by Fr. Cantalamessa before, "I knew how good he was, and I know how brutally honest he can be, too. To know that he was not only the papal household preacher currently, but for Benedict and John Paul II, I was really encouraged by it … he had some really good words for the bishops."

In addition to mentioning the role and gift of ecclesial movements in the Church, Fr. Cantalamessa did address the sexual abuse crisis in different talks, Bishop Wall said. "And I think considering everything that's going on in the world and the US, it was to be expected that he would."

Addressing Pope Francis' letter to the US bishops ahead of their retreat, Bishop Wall said, "I took it as encouragement, an assurance of prayer."

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The renewal facing the Church, the bishop said, "is not renewal in a really pretty way at all. I think it's a painful renewal, and that's what's happening right now. It's really disheartening when we come out with the Charter, we commit ourselves to the Charter, and you find instances when there hasn't been fidelity to the Charter – because ultimately the Charter is about providing an opportunity for young people to encounter the living Christ. That's what it's all about."

At the retreat "I experienced a sense of conversion," Bishop Wall said.

"One of the things Cantalamessa talked about was a sense of reliance on the Holy Spirit, and I think sometimes we can forget that; we can try to 'go it on our own', so it was a reminder, a renewal, a call to conversion. That's what I experienced, took away from that, so I would hope that everyone else would take that away, too. It's all you can hope for."

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