05 Rocca di Papa retreat
All of 1st year men spent a week in prayerful silence in a small town named Rocca di Papa, in the mountains southeast of Rome. It was fabulous location to have a retreat and the nuns who run the retreat center fed us very well.
Two priests from the seminary accompanied us. One of them Msgr. Lyons from St. Louis gave us two different conferences each day focused on different aspects (prayer, penance, the Kingdom, heroes, celibacy, discipleship, priesthood, simplicity, the Passion, Eucharist, and Our Lady). Fr. Callahan, a Franciscan, was there also for spiritual direction and to celebrate Mass along with Msgr. Lyons.
I will share with you briefly something that has stuck with me from the conference on heroes. This is an account from a Jesuit survivor’s journal of an Albanian prison camp:
“Most of them were beaten on their bare feet with wooden clubs; the fleshy part of the legs and buttocks were cut open, rock salt inserted beneath the skin, and then sewn up again; their feet, placed in boiling water until the flesh fell off, were then rubbed with salt; their achilles’ tendons were pierced with hot wires. Some were hung by their arms for three days without food; put in ice and icy water until nearly frozen; had electrical wire placed in their ears, nose, mouth, genitals, and anus; burning pine needles placed under fingernails; forced to eat a kilo of salt and having water withheld for 24 hrs.; teeth pulled without anesthetic; tied behind van and dragged; left in solitary confinement without food or water until almost dead; forced to drink their own urine and eat their own excrement; put in pits of excrement up to their neck; put on a bed of nails and covered with heavy material; put in nail-studded cages which were then rotated rapidly; a cat and mouse put down the bodice of a nun; sisters forced to disrobe and walk naked through the streets…”
Faith is truly a gift from God. It would have been too easy for them just to renounce. Our whole retreat was sprinkled with similar examples from all over the world but mostly from this past century – the century most full of the blood of martyrs than the others combined. The examples were taken from a book entitled “Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century”.
If you are reading this then you were and are in my daily prayers regardless if I know you or not. We all have heard God loves you but:
“God takes a terrible risk. God by free choice, depends on our willingness to let God, Himself be our beloved; in other words, to let God be who God wants to be for us…If I do not choose to respond in mutuality, then God cannot be for me who God wants to be” – Fr. William Barry