|Annual Day of Recollection|
“If you can’t be silent, you’re not going to be able to hear God.”
It was in the spirit of these words, spoken by Fr. Paul Burchat during one of the day’s talks, that the student body, along with members of faculty and staff, gathered on September 12th for OLSWA’s 5th annual Day of Recollection. The day, which took place at a remote, picturesque camp a short distance outside Barry’s Bay, offered a chance for students to reflect, re-collect themselves, and refocus on the things that are most important in their lives.
Students arrived at the camp around 9:30, and the day began with Mass at 10:00 in the main building. Following Mass, there was a short break, which afforded a chance to grab some coffee, chat with friends, and wander outside and enjoy the warm sunshine and fresh breeze coming off the lake, before returning to the main building for the first of the day’s talks. The speaker for the day was Fr. Paul Burchat, and in the morning he addressed students on the topic of “Taking Responsibility for Your Own Faith and Spiritual Life.”
Fr. Paul’s talk challenged each student to think very carefully about his goals for the coming year. He began by stating that “You are here to get a grounding in life skills and faith” – a grounding that, he remarked, will serve the student as a foundation for the rest of his life. Accordingly, Fr. Paul explained, there will be opportunities for growth in many areas throughout the year at OLSWA, although nobody is going to force anyone to take advantage of them. In particular, he focused on the opportunities each student will have to grow in his spiritual life this year, noting that the first step toward taking advantage of these opportunities is to “Grow up.” “You need to civilise people before you can sanctify them,” he said. Beyond progressing in maturity and natural virtue, Fr. Paul emphasised the need to maintain a right balance in the many areas of one’s life, while giving a high priority to regular, disciplined prayer. As he pointed out, the stakes are high, the road is rough, and ultimately success is the responsibility of the individual: “We will walk with you,” he said, “but we will not walk for you.”
Students broke for lunch after Fr. Paul’s talk, and then around 1:00 there began what is always, for many students, the highlight of the Day of Recollection: The Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament from 1:00 until 4:30, during which students, faculty, and staff maintained a period of silence. Some remained before the Blessed Sacrament; others wandered outside and found their own space by the lake or under a tree. All throughout the afternoon, there was the opportunity for quiet reflection, for prayer, and for the sacrament of reconciliation. At 3:00, without disturbing the general atmosphere of silence, everybody gathered again for a brief mid-day presentation, in which Fr. Paul read from the Holy Father’s letter concerning the upcoming Year of Faith, and focused on some specific points to bear in mind as we enter this new year in the life of the Church. When Fr. Paul had finished speaking, everybody dispersed once more; then at 4:30, Professor Schintgen led vespers, and Fr. Paul led Benediction, bringing the afternoon of silence to a close.
Supper was served after Benediction, and, gradually finding their voices once more, everybody spread out to eat, chat, play volleyball, and swim in the lake. When the sun went down, those who were not too tired gathered around a campfire for music, song, and marshmallows. Finally, at quarter to ten, those who still remained sat around the campfire and ended the day in prayer, praying the Rosary before heading home.
As always, this year’s Day of Recollection was an immense success. Students were grateful for the opportunity they had to pause and refocus their lives, to be silent, and to pray and hear God. It was a much-needed opportunity for spiritual assessment and growth; hopefully one of the first among many more that students will take advantage of throughout the year.