During the first weekend of June, sixty-five young adults from all parts of the United States and Canada gathered at the St. Patrick’s IVE retreat center in East Durham, NY for the 5th Annual Universitas, a time of retreat for Catholic formation sponsored by our Religious Family.
These days help to develop all the aspects of conforming our lives to Christ – body and soul, mind and heart. As we are called to direct our whole person to embrace Christ, the time together included spiritual, intellectual, human, and pastoral formation. It was a time to pray, to deep our understanding of truth, to hike mountains, and to grow in faith in order to live the Gospel call to evangelization.
Soul and Body: Mass at the Summit
Modeling the balance of a virtuous life, the retreat schedule began with Morning Prayer together in chapel, breakfast and then a full day of hiking Overlook Mountain in the Catskills.
Some participants from Brooklyn took their first ever ascent of a forested mountain with encouragement from new friends, while others were experienced hikers. Everyone made it up to a lookout where Mass was celebrated by newly ordained Fr. Mariano Ruiz, IVE. There the sacramental glory of Christ in the Eucharist was framed by spring green forests and sunshine which preceded days of cloud and rain.
Mind: Thinking about the Cardinal Virtues
With their body and souls well fed and so prepared for study, Fr. Marcelo Lattanzio, IVE began the formation talk series on the Cardinal Virtues as the way of union with God, which is the happiness of man.
Fr. Marcelo is an Argentinian IVE priest who has taught in seminaries around the world: Argentina, Papua New Guinea, the United States and now in Italy. He began by expressing his gratitude for the opportunity to be with us and so form the participants who by their virtue and knowledge could form a new generation of Americans. Back in the early 1990’s, Fr. Marcelo had been among the first group of IVE priests to arrive in the US, serving in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. This remark of gratitude indicated to all present the significance of God’s providence that they should learn these virtues and live them out.
Everyone was extremely attentive and for many students the information was so valuable that they were taking photos of the lecture screens. Father’s diagrams were both simple and helpful to understand the faculties of the human person and what are their perfections and defects. Using the Catechism of the Catholic Church along with Josef Pieper’s book, The Four Cardinal Virtues (overview of content), Father presented each day on of the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.
[Editor’s note: Also excellent from Josef Pieper: A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart, Abuse of Language Abuse of Power, Leisure the Basis of Culture (one of his most famous books, beloved and promoted by T.S. Eliot), and the demanding but rewarding challenge to Marxist utopias Hope and History.]
Other talks included topics such as “Re-evangelization in America” and also “Persecution of the Church in the Middle East” (led by a priest who was a missionary in Egypt for six years).
Heart (and Body): Character Building Competitions and Sports
Games and competitions alternated with the virtue conferences, often giving us opportunities to see apostolic zeal, energy and creativity in action. They taught each other about their team patron saints through “team-made” “life-size” mascots, videos, and chants or raps.
How many people know their gifts, quirks, and interests can and should further enrich and incarnate the teachings of Christ or the lives of the saints? Or that to let Christ into these manifestations of man, is no loss, but will bring them more perfect joy than they had before?
What virtues can also be gained by exercise of the body and team work? Some good outdoor sports, ultimate frisbee and soccer also make up important ingredients in the recipe for Universitas!
Universitas: Catholic Formation for Young Adults
In these days we could see how all the participants let Christ permeate their hike, their recreation, their studies and resolutions or ideals, they drew close to the sacraments.
Five priests ministered the sacraments to these souls through daily offering of confession and the Holy Mass, while their life of prayer deepened in Adoration and the Liturgy of the Hours with the Religious Family.
We give thanks to God for Universitas 2017 and we continue to pray for these young adults as they return to their jobs, studies, and homes. May we grow in love of God as we strive to follow Christ in living the cardinal virtues. Saint John Paul II, pray for us!