"It seems strange to say, but what can help modern man find the answers to his own mystery and the mystery of him in whose image he is created, is silence, solitude -- in a word, the desert. Modern man needs these things more than the hermits of old." Catherine Doherty

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A visitor comes for the silence to recharge his and our spirits,....

This past week we were very happy to welcome Fr. Zuccaro to a retreat here 
at The Mary Theotokos center. 
He had come to take a little time off from running his Parish in Springfield VT as well as working in his prison ministry to find revitalization in silence and 
in meditative prayer and fresh air.

The weather cooperated at first with balmy warmer than usual days but soon we were in for a storm of ice/sleet/freezing rain/snow and what ever atmospheric condition that could make the driveway impassable as well as outdoor activities of any kind, including walking to the barn, extremely treacherous!

Time to break out the chains!

Fr. Zuccaro took it all in stride as he walked back and forth several times everyday from his private accommodations in the main retreat house to our Chapel for his prayer schedule.

But these daily outdoor treacherous strolls were not enough for this active and healthy Priest. His desire to get even further away in his own private "wilderness" fired an inner adventurer spirit in his heart and he put on a pair of snow shoes and headed for a hike towards Mt. Pisgah which looms behind the retreat house.

Even after arduous hiking in very changeable weather, Fr. Zuccaro returned with his ever present contagious smile eagerly planning his next outing.

Although he was here for a quiet and contemplative retreat where he could recharge his spiritual batteries, he still took time to break bread with us and engage in some enlightening and inspiring conversations. ( Can anyone say "spiritual director"?) But this wonderful and generous skill of listening and discussing a myriad of topics was not the only gift he brought with him, he also provided a daily Mass in our Chapel, 
which was certainly a high point of the week for us.

What a blessing it was to have such an intelligent, generous, witty and personable Priest here with us this week. His conversations, his kindness and generosity, his talent for homilies gave us a much needed 
spiritual boost. 

Although he came for his own recharge, his presence raised our spirits ten fold.

Thank you Fr. Zuccaro, we hope to see you again soon.

Pax et Bonum


The Mary Theotokos Center 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Our biggest and most fun filled retreat as of yet!

It was a dark and stormy night, on Friday the 13th when our group of retreaters from 
Christ the King parish in Burlington VT., (the BYA, the Burlington Young Adults) made their way through the blizzard and howling winds to The Mary Theotokos Spiritual Retreat center.

With a flashlight directed at our sign, truck loads of sand shoveled out on the driveway, and a few extra plow runs, all nine pilgrims made it safely to the main house, through the pitch black and blinding snow squalls. 

The next morning we were able to welcome everyone properly!

They had come for a weekend of outdoor adventure, prayer and fellowship and we were happy to see them.

Once they settled in they got right to work, unpacking, putting away their food stored in the retreat kitchen, but first there was time for a prayer of thanks in the Chapel for a successful arrival.

Another exciting aspect of this group was that not only did they represent our largest retreat so far, but they also represented our youngest retreater to date.


After a good night's sleep the group began with morning prayers, a retreat meeting and breakfast. How easy it was for us that they eagerly prepared their own foods with their own supplies!

And what a blessing for the group that one of their retreat leaders, Edward, the mastermind behind this event is not only a gifted family ministry administrator but he is also an accomplished chef!

These wonderful smells permeated the entire house, and it was difficult for me to stop from dropping in to see, "if they had everything the needed?", especially when the bacon quiche was ready!

Every meal brought with it, prayer, laughter, and heart warming fellowship as this group broke bread together.  
Everyone seemed to enjoy the food, and we even enjoyed the left overs,..very generous guests!

However, Maria was content to eat her socks from time to time.

With their nourishment taken care of there was time for other activities. We often saw hunched figures daring the elements, ( it was mostly a below zero weekend) to run though the high winds both day and night for prayer time at the Chapel, or separating into small groups at various locations for quiet conversation, and also those who would escape alone for quiet reflection. The main reason to come to The Mary Theotokos center, to find quiet time with God.

But after some time with God, it was time to find other ways to celebrate life.

The group decided that aside from X country skiing, and hiking the many trails that sledding was a main goal for the day. Again let me point out that it was so cold this weekend, that the tractor fuel gelled up and it had to wait a few days in the meadow to thaw out. But cold would not deter these adventurous young adults.

First, a few lessons were offered in sledding and leaping through snow drifts unharmed.

During this lesson time, others went outside early to place themselves at strategic areas 
for a snow ball ambush!

The attack worked and the others accepted the ambush with humility and laughs.

Then it was time to sled and in this event, the girls showed their courage, 
searching for the most challenging hills!

Without fear of injury, they really threw themselves into the activity, defying gravity with the reckless of abandon of those with true faith.

The thrill of victory!

The agony of defeat!

After a long day of sledding, snow shoeing, X country skiing and much more fun it was time to return to the house.

The long walk back does offer some peaceful views!

After another meal and time for prayer it was time to break out the board games. In this case it was a round of "cranium", where verbs like, "to Hula" were put to the test!

After the game it was easy to tell from the cheers who won the championship title!

All in all it was a great group to host. Really kind, respectful, faith filled young adults with so much warmth and fellowship to share. They came to share their faith, their laughs and their time together, drawing closer to God in the natural beauty as well as in moments of silence and prayer.

And as I looked through the pictures of this event, I was struck by one picture in particular.

Here at our center named after Mary, the Mother of God, on this retreat weekend, with all of its fun and prayer, we were privileged to witness that sacred relationship of mother and child in the house as well.
How fitting.

Truly a blessing and a blessed event for all.

Thank you to the all the retreaters from Christ the King parish family ministry in Burlington, VT.

You brought so much love and faith into this house. 
Your group is truly a sign of hope in these times.
Stayed tuned for the next event, from

The Mary Theotokos Spiritual reater center

Pax et Bonum

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 "wish list"

 A series of difficulties makes it time again to post our,
Retreat Center "wish list."

Last time we did this two much needed items were donated and as of right now we could use help again.

Our family vehicle, a 2008 Chevy Uplander which we used for retreat operations needs a new transmission, making it not only difficult to transport our family but also retreaters.

So the new wish list for anyone out there who can help is...

$3000 to install a used transmission or a used passenger van with front wheel drive or four wheel drive.

Pax et Bonum
From The Mary Theotokos Spiritual Retreat Center

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2012 begins with work and more construction

January is getting under way and the Christmas tree is heading towards its last stand on this Epiphany Sunday.

Although the snow has been light, only 6 or 7 inches the ice has been thick! 
So far we have been busy sanding the driveway with shovels by the trucks load.

Our driveway Mary garden has been prepared for winter. Mary has moved into our second floor to look out the window onto the pasture land.

But there is much more happening at the Mary Theotokos Retreat Center at this time, as we prepare for our largest group of retreatants heading our way next weekend.

The plumbing and heating has moved into the second phase. Quite an improvement since last year this time when the family huddled around a room heater and watched our breath in every other room of the facility.

Old heating registers that have been found defective from neglect and frozen cracked pipes have to be removed and set aside. Throughout the house these registers have been sawed off and 
old rusty water drained out.

Even older pump motors, valves and circulators are disassembled and checked for reliability.
A new series of pipes are set up for water in the second floor.

Once this dirty prep work is done, the professionals arrive, and we are grateful to see them!
And we are grateful they made it up the driveway, that has already disabled one family vehicle.

With consummate professional skills these men continue to thread flexible heating pipe through all the facilities and attach them to the new registers, creating new heat zones through out the structures.

These flexible pipes now traverse every room from basement to the top floor.

A new and super efficient heating unit is installed and a 
new panel of circulatory pumps are set up to handle the entire facility.

Now that there is strong heat on all the floors of the house, (and soon to be the same in the church) new thermostats are set in.

Aside from new baseboard heating units, new systems are placed in the basement as well.

On the third floor a new heating unit is installed and firewalls have begun to be set up.

A new year and a new corner is turned in the work done at the center. 

So with a prayer for humility and faith in the redemptive power of hard labor, I forge ahead. 

My family and I are grateful for so many blessings, on this adventure, this mission of ours. 
As everyone does, we wait to see where God takes us next.

But we do know, that next week there will be a dozen young adults here to snow shoe, hike, pray and wander in the beauty and serenity that is,

The Mary Theotokos Spirituality Center,

Pax et Bonum
from Vermont.