By Joseph Tulloch
ROME — The Lay Centre residents came together for a daylong retreat Feb. 13, led by Father Mícéal O’Neill, O.Carm, prior general of the Order of Carmelites (O.Carm).
The day got off to an early start with coffee, tea, and “cornetti,” Italian crescent rolls, and time for residents to catch up before the first talk by Father O’Neill on the prophet Elijah. There was time for personal meetings with Father O’Neill and, in the hour before lunch, the retreatants broke into small groups to discuss the morning’s talk.
Lunch was followed by a guided tour on the Aventine Hill, including the Basilica of Santa Sabina and the Giardino degli Aranci, led by Lay Centre staff member, Christiaan Santini.
In the afternoon, retreatants were given more time for personal meetings with Father O’Neill. The community gathered again at 6 p.m. for Mass, followed by pizza and games.
Members of The Lay Centre community offered their reflections on the retreat experience.
Marianna from Italy wrote: “Father O’Neill’s words and the readings that accompanied us throughout the day allowed us to reflect deeply on the force of God in our lives — where it is and the very unexpected forms it can take. To me, it was an opportunity to find that sheer silence within my inner earthquakes and to experience how my wounds are transformed by the communicative, dynamic and ever-changing power of God. What I loved about the day was how delicate and respectful it was. It was a beautiful time to come together as a community, with a peaceful balance between time together and personal reflection. Not to mention the fact that I won an Italian coffee maker out of sheer luck during the final games night — that was definitely a highlight.”
Diogo from Brazil said: “For me, our retreat was a triple experience. Firstly: silence and listening. Listening to Father O’Neill, speaking from his spiritual and pastoral experience was motivating and intense, especially because it reminded me of how God “loves most” to address us: in silence. Secondly: seeing and listening. Being in Rome we can “see” and “touch” history, so the visit to the Basilica of Santa Sabina reminded me of the strength and power of Christian tradition as a source from which a stream of renewal will always flow for us and for the Church. Thirdly: communion and sharing. We share the Eucharist in the celebration of the Mass, we share good conversation and lots of fun at dinner, and we live together. I recalled the words of the psalmist: “How good and how sweet it is that brothers live together” (Ps 133:1).
Angela from the Dominican Republic said: “For me, the retreat was a beautiful opportunity to enter into dialogue with the Lord and at the same time to share in faith with the community of The Lay Centre. The initial question of Father O’Neill — What is happening in my life? What is really going on? — touched me in a special way: I am starting a new experience here in Rome and many new things are happening at the same time. So, for me it was an invitation to gain a real insight into this present moment in my life, enlightened by the Word of God.”
Joseph Tulloch, originally from Yorkshire, England, is an Oxford University graduate in Italian and Philosphy. Currently a student at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Tulloch also spent a semester in Rome in 2019 when he pursued Islamic Studies at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies - PISAI. Tulloch enjoys creative writing and is a keen sportsman. An active member of The Lay Centre community, he collaborates in the area of Communications.
Photos courtesy Lay Centre community
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Morning reflection Sightseeing Celebration of Holy Mass