By: Margie Janson, NL Redemptorist Associate
Luke 19:40 springs quickly to mind as I reflect on our Retreat with Paul Hansen, C.Ss.R.:
“I tell you, if these (the disciples) were silent, the stones would shout out.”
One could say that it is easy to imagine that many people have probably said this of Fr. Paul and those with whom he has worked over the years, that something compels them, and us, to speak out and to share in Christ’s work today—to bring the good news to the poor. Paul brings with him a very global image of Redemptorist presence in God’s world fighting for justice over the last 40 years or so. It was a real privilege to sit and soak in the fullness of a lived Redemptorist spirituality. The Retreat was entitled, Themes of St. Alphonsus in Dialogue with our Day and it was just that. It was offered at each Associate Circle across the country and while it was the same retreat across the country, I am sure it was different too as Paul feeds off the energy in the room and moves quickly to relevant topics.
At the Partnership in Mission Commission Meeting in January this year, as we shared around the room on the 2013 retreat, as I listened, I remembered, and I smiled. Paul has a way of challenging people and stretching their image of God. He seems to enjoy engaging people. It is not a frivolous challenge but a challenge that forces one to stand up and be counted, to make a difference in this beautiful and complex world in which we live. His passion and strength leaves one in awe. As the information flows out of him you just want to sit and soak up every little morsel to carry the whole experience with you and that was what was on the faces of the people in Newfoundland as we listened attentively.
The focus of his retreat really was very Redemptorist: Crib, Cross, Altar and Eucharist in context—_“because anything not placed in context is just a pretext”._ Paul used examples from a life well-lived, inspiring us with names and stories about people we had only read about and he actually knows or knew them. His use of resources was impressive, Michael Paul Gallagher, Walter Brueggemann, Elizabeth Johnson, F.X. Durwell, C.Ss.R., Joan Chittister, Thomas Merton and Dan Berrigan to name just a few. At the end of the day we pondered: How does one explore what is the truth about God?—_by exploring God in what is before us right now at this very moment, in the broken._ The prevailing message for me and I believe for all of us—_God can only love_. The truth is, as I look at my notes, I remember vividly and I want to tell you about every little part of the retreat but I couldn’t possibly do it justice in this brief submission. Suffice it to say one can learn something new from Paul by just having spoken to him for five minutes.
Only one person could not attend the retreat at St. Teresa’s (she was out of the province), 15 people, including all three Redemptorists, jumped at the chance of being part of this Retreat. Feedback from the NL Associates says volumes:
“Awesome”; “Excellent”; “Enough to keep one reading and then pondering for a long time to come! Yesterday was just simply excellent”; “Wow”; “I would like to have his mind”; “Brilliant”; “Came away with a new respect for the human person and a deeper appreciation and love for God”; “A lot to think about”; “Excellent day”; “When I think I almost didn’t get there – am I ever glad I did”; “Captivating”; “I have to think about it all”; “Came away with a new awareness”; “Loved the way he brought Scripture to bear on relevant points as well as the great thinkers of our time – all encompassing”; and “I wish more people could hear him speak”.
Immediately afterward we sent a note of thanks to Fr. Paul Hansen, C.Ss.R. for leading such a beautiful retreat, also to the Provincial, the Co-Chairs of the PIM Commission, and St. Teresa’s Pastor for making it happen. We express again our deep gratitude to Paul and the Redemptorists for sharing their lives with us. I am sure I speak also, in this regard, for Associates across the country, we do not take this connection for granted, we accept it graciously as a gift.
I close with a beautiful tidbit from Fr. Paul’s Retreat, good advice for all (even the story about this is beautiful):
Advice from a Tree—Happy Birthday – to Luc on his birthday, June 25 ~Dan Berrigan
Dear friend. Stand somewhere. Stand there!
Sink roots deep. Reflect the light.
Think long term. Go out on a limb.
Rejoice, among all living beings.
Embrace with joy the changing seasons.
Drink plenty of water. . . . Be flexible.
Remember your roots. Enjoy the view!