Friars Retreat with St. Paul in St. Petersburg

Roy Gasnick, OFM Friar News

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Robert Karris, OFM, directed the first Provincial retreat of 2009 at St. Anthony’s Friary here, Jan. 21 to 24, exploring the theme of “St Paul: Apostle, Preacher, Teacher” with the 32 friars in attendance. The theme coincided with the Vatican’s worldwide celebration of the year of St. Paul.

Robert, a former Provincial Minister of Sacred Heart Province and former General Definitor of the Order in Rome, resides at St. Bonaventure University as research professor at the Franciscan Institute. A well-known scripture scholar, his latest publication, Galatians and Romans, is part of the New Collegeville Bible Commentary series of the Liturgical Press.

“Bob gave an excellent retreat,” said Todd Carpenter, OFM. “He offered two conferences each day on Paul. In the initial conference, Bob spoke on the person of Paul as teacher, preacher, tent-maker, interpreter of scripture, mystic, and collaborator. During the subsequent conferences, Bob chose selected passages from all of Paul’s letters and highlighted specific writings to help us know better the person of St. Paul.”

Racism, Abortion, Euthanasia
Besides the concentration on St. Paul during the retreat, two other commemorations temporarily took front stage. On the first day of the retreat on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the group spent a Day of Prayer to End Racism with the appropriate votive community Mass and Liturgy of the Hours. They remembered that Dr. King was awarded the St. Francis Peace Medal one year before he received the Nobel Peace Prize.

The last day of the retreat coincided with the American Bishops proclaimed Day of Prayer for Violations of Human Dignity by Acts of Abortion and Euthanasia. The group celebrated the designated votive Mass and Liturgy of the Hours.

Christ’s Presence, Sacrament of Anointing
Personal prayer was the emphasis on Wednesday. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed in the friary chapel during the day, offering friars the opportunity for worship, adoration and thankfulness for this reminder of how close God is to us.

During the Evening Prayer Hour, the group celebrated the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. As a retirement friary, this sacrament is celebrated during Advent and Lent. This sacrament is another reminder of how much God loves his people, even when they suffer from illness or cope with the mysteries of growing old.

Seven friars from around the Province joined the 25 members of the St. Anthony community, making up a nice fraternal mix of friars for exchange of ideas and provincial conversations.

Though the weather was cold during the retreat, by the end of the week temperatures returned to the warm winter days for which Florida is so well known. This was advantageous for some of the guest friars who had planned to spend time at the friary after the retreat. Friars were happy to have the diversity provided by Daniel Hurley, OFM,Daniel Lanahan, OFM, and Michael McDonnell, OFM.

Their presence prompted guardian James Toal, OFM, to remind all HNP friars, “The St. Petersburg friary welcomes any friar who is looking for some time away for recuperation, R & R, or any other reason. This is a house of hospitality and all are welcome.”

Todd said he thoroughly enjoyed the retreat. “This was my second time attending a Provincial retreat in St. Petersburg. It is always a pleasure to be with the friars there who enjoy having visitors at their house. The retreat time and topic was a perfect fit for me. It came just after a very busy Advent and Christmas season. Reflecting on Paul was appropriate, given that we are in the year of Paul, and that I am assigned to St. Paul’s Church.”

The Province will offer another retreat, Feb. 16 to 18, at the friary in Butler, N.J.

— Fr. Roy lives at St. Anthony’s Friary in St. Petersburg, Fla.