WHITE HOUSE JESUIT RETREAT

Jesuit retreat center high on the bluffs of the Mississippi River in St. Louis, MO.  Since 1922, thousands of people from around the world make annual three-day silent, guided retreats here to relax, reconnect with God and strengthen their spirituality.  A true gem in the Midwest!  Call 314-416-6400 or 1-800-643-1003.  Email reservations@whretreat.org  7400 Christopher Rd.  St. Louis, MO 63129

Both men's and women's retreats are offered as well as recovery retreats.

Take Spirituality to the Next Level!

Weekend Reflections for 10/11/19

Lepers and Fences.

In his famous poem “Mending Wall” Robert Frost objects to his neighbor’s outworn cliché: “Good fences make good neighbors,” objecting: Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it where there are cows? But here there are no cows. Before I built a wall I'd ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offence. Something there is that doesn't love a wall, that wants it down.

Sunday’s scriptures challenge us about the way we build walls, set boundaries to exclude and include. Both Naaman in today’s first reading and the grateful Samaritan in the Gospel were double outsiders: Not only were they excluded because they had a dreadful disease, but they were also considered dirty, dangerous foreigners who were not allowed to interact with those who considered themselves the pure, proper “chosen” people.

In the Gospel Jesus often seems to be tearing down those walls of exclusion, not mending fences but destroying those irrational human barriers which seem to make walls and fences necessary. Jesus is the ultimate outsider, crucified because he reached out to strangers; with his arms open for embrace on the cross he includes and welcomes all outsiders, challenging us Christians to rethink how we approach the stranger, the foreigner, those we want to exclude rather than embrace. May our experience of the Spiritual Exercises at White House help us to open our own arms in the inclusive embrace of Jesus for all.

-Fr. Ted Arroyo, SJ

Weekend Reflections for 10/4/19

Who’s in charge here?
In St. Luke’s gospel Jesus teaches us about Servants and Masters in two parables. In Sunday’s gospel “ (Chapter 17: 7-10) he encourages our work ethic for the kingdom of God. The master demands that we servants do what servants are required to do: serve. But In Chapter 12: he says “blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.”

I think most of us may be overly preoccupied with the work ethic in our daily lives, the lives many of us regularly return to, or maybe have already returned  through the daily grind of e-mail, advance planning, etc. Hopefully our times of “retreat” at White House have allowed us to step back a bit and put our work in perspective.

But in the second passage, there’s a surprise in store: Think about it: the master puts on his apron and waits on the servants at table. Now I’m not suggesting that we invite those serving us at table to sit down and we get up and serve them. But the message Jesus presents is that service is our gospel mandate, discipleship invites us to be of service in our world, and God puts on an apron and works at our side when we do this. May your White House retreat always call you to deeper service in the mission field.

-Fr. Ted Arroyo, SJ

Weekend Reflections for 9/27/19

Parable of Lazarus and Dives

In this parable Jesus reminds us of the all-important obligation to care for the very poor and destitute who are suffering in our midst and as well as in far off places around our world. Happily I find many people who are well challenged by this teaching.  They accept it as a fundamental of our Judeo Christian tradition. Moreover, they struggle to determine what is their personal responsibility to care for the needs of the poor and abandoned.

There is no simple or single response for each one of us. Rather we have to look at the unique circumstances of our own lives, of our own living situation, our unique responsibilities for the people in our lives. 

A Jesuit friend of mine was deeply committed to the needs of the poor. In order to be more understanding and aware of their situations he chose to live in a rather poor neighborhood.  So he frequently encountered the poor. Many persons would ask for his support.  Sometimes he was able to help them by referring them to services and people who might provide such assistance.

He himself did not have any money that he could offer.  But he added that I always try to treat each person with attention and respect.  I meet their gaze and I listen carefully to what they have to say. Where I can and it seems appropriate, I offer encouragement, concern and advice.

This is not to say that this should be the procedure for everyone, but I find it a good example of how each of us has to determine for ourselves how to meet the challenge of assisting and caring for the poor.

Jim Blumeyer, S.J.

Weekend Reflections for 9/20/19

TAKING UP OUR OWN CROSS

In the two of the gospels for this week (September 22-28) Jesus speaks to his disciples about his death and in one specifies that it will be at the hands of his own religious leaders. His disciples are confused and upset on hearing of this from him.

Luke adds that the disciples simply did not understand why Jesus was speaking about such things, and, moreover that they were afraid to question Jesus about their meaning. They surely recalled what had happened when he first he informed them of this. Peter had tried to say that this certainly could not happen to him. Jesus severely reprimanded Peter for his remarks

For me the disciples' dismay is quite understandable. Who wants to commit their life to a person who predicts that he is going to be put to death by the religious leaders of his own people. To add to their perplexity and confusion is Jesus telling them that to be his disciple they too must take up their own cross.

You and I are his disciples now. We enjoy a perspective that his disciples did not have, namely that of his resurrection. Still the challenging realities of that message for you and me are the same. We too have had, or will have, to take up our own cross, and we too at times will be confused, dismayed and uncertain. Put mildly, this is both challenging and hard.

So we must pray to our risen Lord for a deep faith and belief that he has defeated the cross, he has conquered death, and that he promises to be with us always.

-Fr. Jim Blumeyer, SJ

Weekend Reflections for 9/13/19

The Most Insidious Temptation

 

All three of this Sunday's scripture readings center on the mercy and the forgiveness of our God throughout salvation history. In the Psalms there is the constant refrain that "his love and his mercy are above all his works." In our second reading (Timothy 1, 12-1) we have St. Paul marveling at God's mercy towards him especially after the manner in which he had persecuted the early Church. And in the gospel reading (Luke 15), Jesus gives us three different parables each emphasizing that in our repentance and turning away from sin, that these occasions are for the heavenly hosts joyous moments of celebration.

 

So why is this reflection entitled the most insidious temptation? In my mind the spirit of evil, the enemy, is never more successful than when he convinces someone to believe that the evil he/she has committed is so horrible, so terrible, that the sin cannot be forgiven, that it is unforgivable, not only by ourselves and others but especially not by our God. More than anything else the enemy is trying to get us to turn our back on God's love and mercy. He does not want us to see and appreciate that Christ lived his life, suffered and died for us in the cross, so that we might have forgiveness of our sins and fully enjoy his life.

In a moments of such darkness and temptation we need to try with all of our prayers and tears to keep before our minds and hearts Jesus on the cross pouring out his life for us.

 

-Fr. Jim Blumeyer, SJ

Weekend Reflections for 9/6/19

Our Ongoing Spiritual Conflict

At the White House retreat center I hear many confessions. It is not uncommon for someone to begin with a statement like: I don't know what my problem is but I just seem to be confessing the same things over and over again.  Sometimes I somewhat facetiously remind them that they are not perfect yet.

I sometimes remind them of Ignatius Loyola’s advice on dealing with the spirit of evil (whom he refers as the enemy of human nature or just the enemy).  Ignatius points out that the enemy never stops trying to upset and frustrate us in our endeavors to draw closer to the Lord, and that one tactic of the enemy is to attack us where we are most vulnerable or weak.

In this Sunday's Gospel Jesus very clearly presents the radical demands of being his follower. There is no one person or thing which has priority over our following of Him.  Moreover Jesus does not soft-pedal this. Rather he reminds us that just as the taking up of the cross was at the heart of his discipleship, so it will  be a lifelong endeavor for each of us.

In many different ways the enemy will always be suggesting other priorities for us. And if working through our old faults and peccadilloes provides an opening for this, he will not hesitate to keep repeating this approach.  But we too through our own self-examination are aware or can become aware of what our weakest points are.  With this self-knowledge we can plan our own strategies to counter the attacks of the enemy.

If all of this sounds like a spiritual war or conflict to you, your analysis is correct.  The enemy wants to weaken or destroy our allegiance to Christ; Jesus literally gave the totality of his life so that we might become and remain his disciples.  So he very much wants to assist us and urges us to ask him for his grace and assistance.

 -Fr. Jim Blumeyer, SJ

 

 

 

Weekend Reflections for 8/30/19

God’s Predilection for the Poor

In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus presents two parables, both in the context of a special meal or celebration. I suspect most people easily take in the point of the first parable regarding the person seeking a place of honor at the reception. We might easily concur that that kind of person got exactly what he or she deserved. With this parable Jesus has drawn us into a sympathetic understanding and listening to what he is saying

But in the second parable we may be somewhat caught off guard. What had been on our part a sympathetic listening and accepting of Jesus teaching suddenly, perhaps abruptly, becomes for many of us a much more serious and challenging teaching.

And Jesus description of who should be included among the invitees are the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind reminds us again of the Lord's predilection for those who are most in need of our care and concern. Jesus aligns himself with the centuries old teaching preaching of the Old Testament prophets.

We know too well, almost painfully so, how pertinent and important this teaching is for our day and age not only around the world but in our own country, in our own cities.

Lord Jesus, help us listen to your teaching and challenge, help us to respond as you would want.

-Fr. Jim Blumeyer, SJ

Weekend Reflections for 8/23/19

Jesus’ Conditions 

In Sunday’s Gospel passage Luke puts three different parables together in a row and the result is a little confusing.  Jesus is on the road making his way to Jerusalem and in one town someone asks him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Jesus answers with the parable of the narrow gate indicating that it won’t be easy and requires dedication and keen focus on our goal.

The second parable is the story of those who knock on the locked door asking to be let in and the master of the house will say that he doesn’t recognize them. They will counter by claiming they have shared a meal and saw him teaching in their streets and he will tell them to go away. I hear Jesus inviting and calling us to do more than eat a meal and watch him walk by. He wants us to hear his words and take them into our hearts and believe that he is God made flesh. He asks us to love him and show that love in how we treat others. That’s how we are saved.

Fr. Ralph Huse, S.J.

Weekend Reflections for 8/16/19

Jesus’ Challenge

Sunday’s reading from Luke’s Gospel has Jesus issuing a fundamental challenge to those who would follow him: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” He’s not speaking of the wild fires that destroy everything in their path but the fire that melts gold ore to purify it, the controlled burns that consume the dead grass and brush to make the fields green and productive. His challenge to us is to follow him in his life of self-sacrificing love, giving of ourselves so that we can be free to be and do for others, our loved ones and even strangers and enemies. The Holy Spirit continues Jesus’ work of purifying us of our ego and our selfish choices and decisions.

Jesus warns that love can be divisive and not always peaceful, even within our families. When we try to live out the line in the Our Father, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”, not everyone agrees.

Some of us can’t let go of our grudges and resentments and they can become family traits. Maybe the Spirit needs to turn up our thermostats a few degrees.

Fr. Ralph Huse, S.J.


Weekend Reflections for 8/9/19

Our Destiny 

Life is sometimes described as a journey with its beginning in birth and ending in death. When I was growing up, Dad and Mom would often take me and my siblings for a ride on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes they had a destination in mind, other times just a meandering ride. I seldom knew where we were or where we were going, but I knew that Dad did and we were safe. In Sunday’s Gospel Jesus tells us: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.”

I used to be afraid of dying because I was afraid of the god I would meet.  The years and struggles and life experiences along with faith and Scripture and prayer have gifted me with a realization of God as Abba, the infinitely loving and merciful parent. I’m not afraid of death anymore but am able to look beyond it and see it as falling into the loving arms of the God who is pleased to welcome me home and will usher me to my seat at the eternal banquet. What an incredible end to the ride!

Fr. Ralph Huse, S.J.

Weekend Reflections for 8/2/19

The Foolish Farmer 

Sunday’s readings are a stark reminder of who we truly are, God’s beloved children who have come from Him and one day are destined to return to Him. In the meantime all is gift. In Luke’s Gospel Jesus tells us “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Then he tells the story of the very successful farmer who builds bigger barns to hold his valuable harvest, only to meet God that night. We all know the expressions: you can’t take it with you and you never see a hearse with a U-Haul trailer behind it. In a conservative branch of the Jewish faith they have the ritual of one day a year wearing their burial garment and it has no pockets, similar to the Catholic Ash Wednesday. The message is clear: remember who you are.

We will be judged not by how much we have accumulated, earned or control but by how much we have loved others and been loved. We are defined not by our possessions but by our relationships. Things can intrigue and satisfy us for a while but Love lasts forever.

 

Fr. Ralph Huse, S.J.

Weekend Reflections for 7/26/19

"Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." If only it were so easy! These words of Jesus presume that we are praying in the Holy Spirit and not out of our own personal desires that may not jive with God's desires.

The Holy Spirit conforms our heart to the heart of Christ, such that the deeper desires we find welling up within are but a cry of the Holy Spirit from within our temple to the Father.
And the Father never refuses that cry of the Holy Spirit. There may be a time lapse between the request and the receiving, to strengthen our spiritual muscles, and to remind us what a gift the favor is. But such a prayer will always be heard and answered!
May we learn how to pray with the simplicity of the Holy Spirit.

-Fr. Anthony Wieck, SJ

Weekend Reflections for 7/19/19

What does it mean to have a Marian spirit? Martha has to learn the answer the hard way in this Sunday's Gospel, from her own sister Mary. A Marian spirit is actively receptive. It is prayerful in the midst of busyness.
Martha does eventually become St. Martha, we know, so she learns her lesson! So can we.


What does she learn? What is it that our Lord reproves in her? What is it that he wishes to correct? Let us listen to the sage insight of St. Therese of Lisieux in this regard: "It is not Martha’s works that Jesus finds fault with; His divine Mother submitted humbly to these works all through her life since she had to prepare the meals of the Holy Family.  It is only the restlessness of His ardent hostess that He willed to correct." (XI, 258)
You and I can indeed perform the very same works during our day either with a spirit of restless anxiety, or a spirit of prayerful openness. The choice is ours.


In our busy day-to-day life, how is the Lord inviting us to acquire a Marian spirit? A helpful suggestion in this regard is to bookend our day with prayer. When I grew up on the farm, there was a beautiful painting on the wall of our home stating, "A day hemmed in prayer is less likely to unravel." It is true. Let us pray to St. Martha to teach us the Marian spirit of her sister, so similar to that of the Mother of God!

-Fr. Anthony Wieck, SJ

Ignatian Spirituality Trail construction begins!

Construction on the Ignatian Spirituality Trail began this week! The entire path has been cleared, next will come the gravel that will cover the trail, construction of a series of bridges, retaining walls and stairs. This project along with the grotto restoration should take approximately 9 weeks to complete.


To find out more about this project and how you can help, click here

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Weekend Reflections for 7/12/19

Two weeks ago my second cousin was carjacked, and badly wounded by his own car during the experience. Recently we have had a very sad spate of killings in St. Louis.  Is there anything you or I can do to ameliorate these all-too-common issues?
"Who is my neighbor?'" is the question posed to Jesus in this Sunday's Gospel. Basically, Jesus' answer is "anyone in need." He then offers the story of the Good Samaritan to illustrate his point. 

We should note that the unique thing about this model Samaritan in Jesus' story is that he is moved with compassion at the sight of the one beat up and laying alongside the road.  Neither know each other, they don't belong to any friendship group, they don't share the same religious values or cultural mores. But nonetheless, assessing his plight, the Samaritan is moved with compassion at the sight of him.  Note how the Samaritan shares the very view of God, who suffers to see the abuse that has occurred.

Can you and I also be moved with compassion at the frightening experience not only of my second cousin, but of the perpetrator of that crime, a 14-year-old girl of a different cultural background? How might the Lord want you and me to help succor the needs of those who aren't even asking for our help at the moment? How can we help raise up strong leaders among different cultural communities in this proud city of ours, sadly so racked with racism on many sides?  Perhaps too can we help raise up strong political leaders to incentivize such local leadership?

Who is my neighbor? May I too be moved with compassion as I come to know this "other", both the one harmed and the one causing the harm, and succor the needs at hand.

-Fr. Anthony Wieck, SJ

Weekend Reflections for 7/5/19

The greatest joy we can have in this life is to bring someone to a one-on-one encounter with Christ.
St. Ignatius opines that we can gauge the true love we have for another person according to how effectively we help them in serving and glorifying God! And such charity we know covers a multitude of sins (1Pt4:8).
We are all connected, literally.


In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus sends out an additional 72 to prepare his way, to ready others for a personal/one-on-one/sacrmental encounter with Jesus. You, O Reader, are part of the 72. You definitely are.
Whom is Jesus inviting you to lead to him this week? Christianity never was a "me and Jesus" religion. Our deepest joy and source of salvation is to bring others to him. Who is that for you? How will you do so? Be bold; be creative. And thus you will be Christian. The Church has always prayed that the harvest master would send workers like you into his harvest. Allow the Holy Spirit to inspire you with a generous "Yes!"

 -Fr. Anthony Wieck, SJ

Weekend Reflections for 6/28/19

Today in the Liturgical calendar of the Church, we return to “Ordinary Time,” and the readings are appropriate, as Sunday’s bible readings are about following God’s call. This involves a journey of ongoing discernment in freedom at every step.

“Vocation” is our baptismal calling, not limited to a specialized calling to priesthood or religious life. As Pope Francis frequently states it, we don’t “have” a mission, we “are” a mission. But how do we identify this vocation, this mission in our daily lives?

For those of us who are familiar with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, which we offer to over 4,000 people every year at White House, we can identify with these retreats as both a school of prayer and a school of discernment. These exercises offer us “rules” for discernment which are ways to grow in freedom rather than the slavery of a limited job description. This involves growing in intimacy with our God, who shows us the way in the path of Jesus’ journey in the gospel.

As St. Paul stresses in today’s second reading, we do this by growing in the grace of freedom. For Christian vocation is not simply growth in freedom from the “yoke of slavery,” but freedom for service, or as Jesuits like to put it, the vocation of becoming ever more “persons for others.” One helpful way of developing the habit of ongoing vocational discernment is the “Awareness Examen” from the Spiritual Exercises, which can be found on pages 41-43 of the White House prayer booklet. May your regular experience of the Spiritual Exercises, through your annual retreat as well as your daily “Awareness Examen” be the benchmark for your baptismal vocation.

 -Fr. Ted Arroyo, SJ

Weekend Reflections for 6/21/19

Corpus Christi

21st century science tells us that we are ALL literally connected to one another and to all things—ALL part of one vast web of life in our universe. This is not a mere metaphor or a symbol; it is true that the matter of all of our bodies is intrinsically related because all emerged from and is caught up in a single energetic event that is the unfolding of the universe. Our common ancestry stretches back through life forms and into the stars, back to the primeval explosion of light that began our universe. Atoms that may have been part of Jesus’ body are now part of our bodies. From our roots in the universe, WE are ALL one bread, one body. It’s not a matter of “us and them,” we are ALL one bread, one body. The bible readings for Corpus Christi invite us to claim this interconnectedness with Christ and with one another, for the ongoing life and flourishing of the world.

 

There are many wonderful ways to celebrate Corpus Christi, the one bread, the one body of Christ: with private devotion as well as public parades. Today, after communion, perhaps, instead of returning to the pew hugging Jesus to yourself, what if we look up at all the other people around us: some we know and like or even love; others we may not know at all or even maybe some we don’t like at all. Yet here we all are participating in the body and blood of Christ. Not just “receiving”, but becoming his blood, his body for this world. In a sense in communion we receive not only Jesus, but all the members of the Body of Christ.

 

For St. Paul, the Eucharist goes beyond individual piety; Eucharist binds us all together in the Risen Christ. To “Jesus and me” we add “Jesus and Us.” But if the Eucharist is the celebration of our unity, it is our remembrance, our being remembered, being put back together as one body in Jesus Christ who shared our flesh and blood. Our solidarity in this faith is greater than all our differences when we partake of one food and drink to nourish us on our way. Let those words we often sing ring true: One bread, one body, one Lord of all; one cup of blessing which we bless; and we, though many throughout the earth, we are one body in this one Lord.

-Fr. Ted Arroyo, SJ

Weekend Reflections for 6/14/19

Most Holy Trinity


On this Trinity Sunday we celebrate “divine” relationships, the music of the trinity that echoes in our Christian lives.


i)Divine Salvation: God’s mighty, saving works in history, especially our own salvation history.


ii)Divine Love, that gifts, lifts us, from slavery into freedom.


iii)Divine Grace as a gift we are called so share with others.


The Spiritual Exercises which we share in White House Retreats all echo the fundamental mystical experiences of St. Ignatius Loyola. Ignatius’s prayer was sometimes addressed separately to the Father, then the Son, then the Spirit. The“fourth” person Ignatius prayed to often was Mary, who inspired him with a mystical image of the unity of the trinity: “... while praying the office of Our Lady on the steps of [a] monastery, his understanding began to be raised up, in that he was seeing the Most Holy Trinity in the form of three musical keys, and this with so many tears and so many sobs that he could not control himself. And on walking that morning in a procession which was leaving from there, at no point could he restrain his tears until the mealtime, nor after the meal could he stop talking, only about the Most Holy Trinity.


"In St.Ignatius’s time, music tended more to simple harmonious chords rather than the discord so prominent in modern music, and that is how he resonated with the Holy Trinity. But for us today, perhaps the discord of our lives and world is also an invitation to let the music of the Trinity play on and on, especially through our“concert director” Ignatius and his symphony of Spiritual Exercises, where “Christ plays in ten thousand places, Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his. To the Father through the features of men's faces.” (Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.)


-Fr. Ted Arroyo, SJ