His Time, His Way


His Time, His Way

It’s been about ten years now since we lost some very holy ground in the Green Bay Diocese when the retreat house on Chamber’s Island was permanently closed and the property sold.  The Diaconate Community used to hold an annual retreat there the last weekend of June.  To me, it was the ideal place for a retreat because the only way to get there was by boat.  There was something very blessed about being able to park your car and your normal daily routine at Fish Creek, and board the Quo Vadis for the thirty-minute boat ride to the island.   

My wife Michelle and I were fortunate enough to attend this annual retreat during my formation years as well as the first five years of my ordination.  There were always two boat trips scheduled for the deacons.  One trip left in the morning; the other in late afternoon.  Michelle and I always took the morning boat.  Besides our eagerness to get to the island and the quiet, relaxed atmosphere there, that gave us the time of the boat ride and the afternoon to enjoy the company of the others on the retreat.  Once the retreat formally began after dinner Friday night, everyone was asked to be as silent as possible to allow participants to focus on the presence of God.

I remember that final boat ride over.  Everyone was glad to be together, but there was a somber tone as the eventual closure of the retreat house had already been announced, so we knew this was indeed our final retreat in this special place.  Not surprisingly, much of the talk was on how many times we had been to the island, favorite retreat directors, and good memories. 

When the Quo Vadis glided into the little marina and moored, people already seemed to quiet down as we made our way up the hill and the fifteen minute walk to the Holy Name Retreat Center.  As we climbed the hill and walked along the edge we passed by a huge oak tree that must have stood guard, like an angel, for decades.  One couldn’t help notice that there was a scar of a fairly fresh lightning strike from about twenty feet up, all the way to the ground.  The exposed heart wood was charred.  The leaves of the tree were shriveled and curled, letting us know that the lightning strike was a fatal one.  In less than a blink of an eye, much like the quick and immediate encounter with Christ that knocked St. Paul to the ground, the strong oak felt a stronger power and its fate took a different direction.

The next morning, on a break following the first retreat conference, I descended a long staircase that went all the way down to where the persistent waves steadily washed ashore.  The Niagara Escarpment runs all the way from the south shore of Lake Ontario in upstate New York and arches all the way to the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin that protrudes into Lake Michigan.  It is primarily limestone so, I was not surprised by the bleached white rocks that were strewn along the shoreline.  I stooped down to pick one up.

This particular stone was originally broken off of the spine of the escarpment by erosion.  At first, it likely had a flat surface and sharp edges.  But, after being washed up on this narrow beach thousands of years ago, the ceaseless lapping of waves that also washed coarse sand over it, had scoured the edges and the complete surface smooth and rounded.  Now, it was a stone that a young David may have selected for his sling for his battle with Goliath.

I had much to consider and pray about that last retreat on Chamber’s Island.  And much of my thoughts revolved around the witness to me of that Pauline oak, and that wave-polished limestone rock.  God is always at work in us, shaping us to his will.  Sometimes the change comes in an unexpected flash of unanticipated life experience; sometimes it is a daily washing over us of his presence, his love and his mercy that finally wears down our resistance. 

His Peace <><

Deacon Dan

Photo by Clayton Malquist on Unsplash