Well, maybe not Spring. More like the beginnings of Mud season, once all the snow melts. Though Emily calls it Slosh season. Which is a good name, with all the snow and mud combining to make any walk to the barn a bit soggy, or any drive up the driveway a bit challenging. But here in Vermont, when one can see snow plow blades sitting quietly by pick up trucks in various driveways that IS a sure sign of Spring.
Although it was that sort of optimistic thinking which had me slamming that plow blade back on the truck for that 2 feet of snow a few Aprils ago. But, one can hope.
So as we come out of winter, many happenings continue here at the Mary Theotokos Retreat Center;
let me recap some highlights.
First came the plumbing work. Finding the source of a few roof leaks meant a week of crawling though the tiniest of dark, cramped crawl spaces. Sort of like looking for the end of the tunnel in "The Great Escape", but with more mouse poop. And, if you know me, you know that I am not a tiny compact person so the crawl spaces seemed even smaller,..just keep crawling to the light.
The next part of the plumbing work involved repairing lines and adding hot water to various locations in the Chapel building.
Remember to add coffee...
Working with PEX piping and "shark bite" joiners makes the job a lot easier, but what would any plumbing job be without some cold water spraying. OK, so maybe I will have to watch the Plumbing "How To" videos one more time.
Once the water was running, in the pipes where we wanted it, then it was time to take a look at some potential new livestock.
Yes I do remember what I said about goats last year. BUT, these cute Nigerian Dwarf milkers are looking for a home and by taking them in we could do some good. Not to mention that Nigerian Dwarf goat milk has one of the highest butterfat contents, making it taste like cow's milk as well as making it excellent for producing, yogurt, cream, cheese, ice cream and other dairy. They stand about two feet tall and make excellent lawn mowers. So with some prep work, we may find this little herd roaming the retreat center soon.
Next came a fantastic opportunity to attend the "Man Up Philly" Catholic Conference.
Matthew and I left early and drove down to Manchester Airport for the short flight to Philadelphia Airport.
After our arrival we grabbed a shuttle to the Sheraton Four Points hotels by Philadelphia Airport. The next day we were picked up by Rob Longo, a kind and generous man who got us to Mass and then to a Gospel Reflection group.
This Gospel Reflection group is one that I have taken part in for the past few years by phone. Once a week I have called in to be inspired and uplifted by the men who attend in person in Chester PA., and by phone from across the country or across the globe as we read our Litany and Prayers and the weekly Gospel, followed by a group discussion.
The group is headed up by Eustace Mita
As was much of the organizing for "Man Up Philly", another in the long line of generous and faith filled men we were about to meet on our trip.
The Conference was held at The Archbishop Ryan High School
And had several incredibly inspirational speakers, such as:
who served as Director of The White House Office of Faith-Based community initiatives and as Assistant to President George W. Bush, currently he is President and CEO of Ave Maria University in Naples Florida and also worked with Mother Theresa as her legal counsel as well as a volunteer in Mother Theresa's home for people with AIDS in Washington DC, for over twelve years. His stories of working with Mother Theresa as well as his own private journey through his faith was inspirational to say the least.
Also this year at the conference was Christopher West.
Many of you will know of Mr West's books and speaking tours regarding his scholarly study of Blessed John Paul II's "Theology of the Body". He is a popular author, professional speaker and theologian who has appeared on Fox news, ABC, CBS, MSNBC and EWTN to name a few networks. He is also the founder of the Cor Project, a not-for-profit global outreach devoted to cultural renewal through the "new evangelization". His presentation was on fire with energy and insight as he not only recounted his work but also made the dense scholarship of "Theology of the Body" accessible to a wide audience of men.
Other speakers included a witness of a journey to faith by Don Saleski, former right winger for the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers and Richard Lane, one of the most prolific Catholic speakers of this decade who is often featured on "Catholic Answers" on Ave Maria Radio, as well as Protestant Radio. He has been featured in many national publications, is co-founder of Catholic Men for Christ's Men annual conference in St. Louis Missouri and had this audience of over 1200 men standing and cheering with exuberant and volcanic energy levels as he witnessed for a call to action by today's Christian men.
All in all it was a very exciting event. Matthew did a radio interview for CBS radio regarding his faith and why he was there, I got to speak on stage with members of the Chester Gospel Reflection Group, we saw a myriad of vendors, stood in a line around the block for confession, went to Adoration and we were privileged to attend Mass with Archbishop Charles J. Chaput presiding.
He gave the longest and most thorough Homily I have ever heard, that kept Matthew and I on the edge of our seat the entire time, truly a brilliant theologian and gifted Priest.
Once it was all over Matthew and I were treated to some real Philadelphia cooking by our new friend Mike Tiegler and returned to our hotel numb and yet energized by the experience.
But there was also sightseeing in Philly as well.
I didn't run up the steps, but Matt did. The Art Museum was amazing.
Aside from the paintings, by Norwegian artist Frits Thaulow
and Van Gogh
Matt was transfixed by the Armory exhibit.
After the Museum it was time to take a walk to the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, marveling at sights along the way.
After a Chaplet of Divine mercy and a Rosary at the Marian Shrine, Matt and I did what any self respecting tourist in Philadelphia would do. (no not have a cheesteak on a Friday during lent,.we waited till Saturday for that) We went to get the picture my wife demanded we get.
All our Philadelphia experiences done it was time to fly back to Vermont. But not to home. After getting off the plane, Matt and I drove to Burlington VT., where I performed in a production of
Karol Wojtyla's THE JEWELER SHOP, while Matt ran lights.
Then it was a late dinner with cast members and FINALLY home to the Retreat Center.
Just in time for a Catholicism in Deph Retreat run by Edward Alonzo, Youth Minister of St. Anthony Church in Burlington,
and his guest Sue Gamache
Next we all begin our efforts here to bring as many retreatants, local parishoners and visitors to the total consecration to Jesus through Mary. Our Marian mission here, at The Mary Theotokos Retreat Center. If you would like to know more about the Marian Consecration, take a peak at these links:
as well as this book,
Don't forget to visit this blog too,
and discover the graces waiting for you through a consecration to God through Mary.
In the mean time, there are Chapel signs to make, stalls to muck out, eggs to collect and of course, silent adoration time to enjoy.
The trout will be running soon, spring must be coming.
If you need a little spiritual recharge or more mud in your life, we hope to see you this spring at
The Mary Theotokos Retreat Center,
here in Newark, VT.