What do spiritual growth and bathroom demolition have in common? It turns out, a lot. A few months ago, the center reacquired the 100-year-old farmhouse we call Saint Mary’s. It’s going to be a great place for a private retreat for one person, or small group retreat for two or three: quaint, historical, nestled on the edge of the woods, surrounded by wildlife and Lincoln log farm buildings. But it needs some work.
About the same time we started working on Saint Mary’s, I enrolled in the Spiritual Direction Certificate program at Divine Mercy University. This was in part to help in my work as the director of a retreat center, but also to jumpstart my own spiritual life. Just as we reacquired the retreat house, I feel like I’m ‘reacquiring’ my spiritual life. And in a similar vein, it too is going to need some work.
At Saint Mary’s, after replacing the sagging porch and stripping the old carpet from the floors, we moved on to the bathroom. The walls were plastic panels. They may have looked good in their day but now were a little chipped and mildewy. We decided to remove the panels thinking that underneath would be some wallboard we could work with. Not so. Instead, there were random pieces of sheetrock, plywood and particle board that looked like they were collected from the junk pile of a construction site. Beneath the wall board was another random collection of lattice strips used to level all the different thicknesses. After removing all these layers, we finally reached original wall studs. After all that deconstruction, we’re ready for a solid reconstruction.
Like the bathroom, the spiritual direction classes have forced me to peel away a few layers and take a closer look at my spiritual life. Initially, I thought it looked pretty good, just a few ‘chips’ and ‘black spots’ but nothing I couldn’t gloss over. I now realize it was supported by a patchwork of throwaways cobbled together just to make the surface look smooth. For instance, I say Morning Prayer, but sometimes it’s like fitting a scrap of wallboard into a particular rectangular space, i.e. squeezing 20 minutes of prayer into a 5 minute time slot.
In the bathroom demo, the floor was no different. One layer of vinyl was sitting on top of another layer of vinyl. Underneath this were patches of subfloor, some of which were rotten. The cast-iron toilet flange was corroded. It was a wonder that the toilet stayed in place!
In my prayer life, I sometimes pile layer upon layer. There have been times I’ve listen to an audio version of Evening Prayer on my phone while driving in my car. Or even worse, while playing a ‘corrosive’ game on my computer. On the surface, the prayer routine is in place. But underneath are layers of distractions that need to be removed.
When I started, I gaged myself to be well into the depths of the “interior castle” Saint Teresa of Avila describes. I now realize I’ve just barely made it to the bathroom. And have a lot of work ahead of me.
Is it time for you to look at remodeling your own ‘interior castle’?
Your servant in Christ,
Deacon Scott D. Gilfillan
Director, Catholic Conference Center
P.S. If you’re looking to do a little remodeling of your own ‘interior castle’, check out our website for retreat options, or email me if you’d like some help structuring your own private retreat.
P.P.S. Early Bird registration for our Men’s Retreat August 6-8 ends July 1.
P.P.P.S. If you’d like to help in our remodling effort of Saint Mary House, visit our webpage.