I just got back from a weekend retreat at The Malvern Retreat House. It’s the third time I’ve and it’s always rewarding in some way, often in ways I don’t expect. Aside from the excellent food, (too good for a true retreat experience) and the excellent lectures, the people you meet are often the most enriching part of the retreat experience.
For example, this weekend I ended up sitting at a table with some younger guys from Philly. (It bothers me that people in their mid-20s are “younger” now.) Anyway, I was put off at first by their foul language and the crudity of the comments they made about the young girls serving the food. They were even arguing over who was the best graffiti artist. (One even bragged about being featured in the paper.) However, I learned through our conversation that they were all recovering alcoholics. It eventually hit me that I don’t know if I’d have that strength to overcome such a crippling addiction. It helped remind me that I need to always be looking for the best in people, no matter how off-putting I initially find them. Hopefully, that’s a lesson that will stick with me in the future.
The most amusing thing that happened to me this weekend was my experience with serving as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion at the closing Mass. I ended up distributing the Blood of Christ. I don’t know if it’s a general thing at Malvern or just the group I ended up with, but there are a number of recovering alcoholics who attend that weekend. As a result, there was a good deal of consecrated wine left in my cup. To help out the person responsible for purifying the cups, I consumed the remainder of the blood left in my cup. Then another Extraordinary Minister asked if someone could finish his as well, so I agreed to. He also had a good deal left. During the closing rites of the Mass, I could feel myself start swaying and realized, “Oh my gosh, I actually am a little drunk off Communion wine.” I ended up having to take my time packing up, changing clothes and saying some prayers before I could feel safe driving. That’s a new experience.
If you’re looking for a good retreat experience, you can’t do much better than St Joseph’s in the Hills.