By Nico Tessel

On Saturday, December 7th, 2019, Fr. John lead a Men’s Retreat organized at St. George Parish from 9 am until 2 pm. This retreat was open to all the Knights of Columbus members and all other men of St George Parish.

The subject of the retreat was Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation called the “ Joy of Love”.

Father John Jasica, our facilitator, started with explaining to us why Pope Francis wrote “The Joy of Love”, which is a post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the two synods on the family (2014 & 2015).

Two Synods on the family were held to give laypeople, priest and bishops the opportunity to offer their input, reflections and experience on the gift of family from all over the world. This information was collected, presented and discussed at the synod gatherings with bishops from all over the world. Pope Francis had the great task of summarizing all the input, discussions and vision for the future of the Church looking at the joys and challenges of our families today. The Apostolic Exhortation has nine chapters and is 225 pages long.

We prepared this men’s retreat in consultation with Father John and agreed to focus the retreat on chapters three, four and five, because most people present were married men with a family.

Father John was well prepared for this retreat. He had us all gathered in the parish hall. He accessed the papal document online in digital form and was able to cut out important paragraphs for his presentation. All of us present were able to read and follow along on the screen.

Chapter Three: The Vocation of the Family

Father John took paragraphs out of chapter three to explain the Sacrament of Marriage as a spousal covenant. The Sacrament of Marriage is not a contract between two persons. It is a covenant between three persons.

Paragraph 71: In the human family, gathered by Christ, “the image and likeness” of the Most Holy Trinity ( cf. Gen. 1:26) has been restored.

Paragraph 86: Within the family “which could be called a domestic church” ( Lumen Gentium, 11) individuals enter upon an ecclesial experience of communion among persons, which reflects, through grace, the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

The Church is a family of families, constantly enriched by the lives of all those domestic churches. The Church is good for the family, and the family is good for the Church.  The experience of love in families is a perennial source of strength for the life of the Church.

Chapter Four: Love in Marriage

Father John gave us two questions to think about and discuss in our groups.
– What does love mean to us in our marriage?
– How can we increase/decrease love in the Sacrament of Marriage?

After much discussion, the main points that surfaced were to be selflessly serving one another and not try to control the relationship.

Pope Francis makes the statement God’s Love is unconditional. (paragraph 108) That makes sense, because God is not human, has no ego, so does not need to add any conditions to His Love. We as humans are not always sure of ourselves, so we like to add conditions. The more conditions our ego’s are pushing the further we are from unconditional love, which is what God wants us to make visible in our world.

Chapter Five: Love Made Fruitful

Father John gave us two questions again to think about and discuss in our groups.
– What are the challenges of having children today?
– What are the challenges of raising children today?

After many discussions the main points that surfaced were economics (the costs involved in raising and providing for children) and availability (taking the time in our busy lives and the demands of work)

Paragraph 175: Pope Francis makes the statements: A mother, who watches over her child with tenderness and compassion, helps him or her to grow in confidence and to experience that the world is a good and welcoming place.  A father possessed of a clear and serene masculine identity, who demonstrates affection and concern for his wife, is just as necessary as a caring mother. A clear and well-defined presence of both figures, female and male, creates the environment best suited for the growth of the child.

The group discussion also concluded the fact that both a mother and father brings complimentary support in the gift of family. Two different persons with different strengths can be complimentary, which can strengthen a marriage.

Paragraph 192: Saint John Paul II asked us to be attentive to the role of the elderly in our families. Very often it is the grandparents, who ensure that the most important values are passed down to their grandchildren. Their words, their affection or simple their presence help children to realize that history did not begin with them.

We ended the retreat around 2 pm. we thanked Father John for this great retreat and for being our excellent Parish Priest.