The Flame: November & December 2005

Dear Readers of The Flame,

I did not know if it was a prelude of heaven or a review of Pentecost. However, I knew that it was a gift from God.

I received a monetary gift earlier this year to attend an international charismatic retreat for priests in Ars, France . Ars is the small village (population 1000) where St. John Vianney was the parish priest in the mid 1800’s. He was a noted confessor (hearing confessions about seventeen hours a day) and true pastor of his people. He is the patron for parish priests.

This retreat, which took place from September 25 through October 1, was an amazing event. 846 priests from 71 countries attended the retreat. At least sixteen bishops including two cardinals participated in this event. Given the size of Ars, most of us stayed at hotels outside of this little village. We were bussed in by 9:00 AM for song, praise and Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. We were taken back to our hotels around 10:00 PM. The days were long but fruitful.

My initial impression was that this retreat was a slice from heaven. Though most retreats have a way of getting one in touch with the Lord in a deeper way, the international nature of this event made me think of the words of the Book of Revelation,

 “…I had a vision of a great multitude…from every nation, race, people and tongue before the throne of the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm…they cried out, ‘Salvation is from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.’” (Revelation 7:9,10)

Our Eucharistic celebrations, complete with incense, white robes and many languages, cried out “Salvation is from our God!”

The event was hosted by the Community of the Beatitudes, a charismatic religious community of lay people, vowed religious men and women, and priests. They served as the organizers and hosts, as well as led us in song and assisted in various roles during our liturgies. Sr. Briege McKenna and Fr. Kevin Scallon from Ireland were the main presenters at the retreat. A host of bishops and two cardinals spoke or presided at liturgies. Our times of prayer were in a variety of languages (French, English, Italian and German were the most popular; Spanish, Portuguese and Polish were also woven in). Talks were simultaneously translated through FM radio headsets.

As the retreat went on, the image of Pentecost came to mind. This gathering was the Pentecost of both the Upper Room and the streets. It was an “upper room” experience because it was certainly a time of prayer, healing and equipping by the Holy Spirit from which we priests were launched outward to the ends of the earth. And with priests from seventy one countries there, we were more diverse than the “Parthians, Medes…Elamites” and others (Acts 2:9) that had gathered in the streets of Jerusalem that day to hear the gospel proclaimed from the lips of St. Peter.

I treasure the many personal graces of this week: encountering priests from all over the world who live their priesthood in the power of the Holy Spirit…being able to call upon the intercession of St. John Vianney, St. Therese the Little Flower (her traveling relics were at the retreat), and St. Margaret Mary (the one who had the apparitions of Jesus and the Sacred Heart)…participating in an outdoor Eucharistic procession through the streets of Ars with hundreds of priests. I pray that the graces of this retreat would bear fruit in my life and ministry as a priest.

Earlier I mentioned that I was given a gift to go on this retreat. That gift was given anonymously. If that donor is a reader of The Flame, THANK YOU!

Sincerely in Christ, 

Fr. Bob Franco 

PS: I sincerely wish each of you and your loved ones a blessed Thanksgiving gathering and happy and holy Christmas. These holidays call us to give thanks and praise to God for his wonderful mercies fully revealed in Jesus Christ. And for the ways that you have blessed and assisted CRM by your presence, prayers and gifts, I want to offer you my thanks. God’s best to you in 2006.