Subpriory of the Immaculate Conception – Sydney Retreat
Report by Daniel Kwok
Each year, the Subpriory of The Immaculate Conception holds a summer retreat in Melbourne and a winter retreat in Sydney. Our winter retreat took place on 15th – 16th August at Canisius Centre of Spirituality in Pymble. The Centre provided us with a generous expanse of grounds much suited for reflection. The facilities offered us the simplicity required for a retreat and the hospitality we received was warm and unobtrusive.
Fr Geoffrey Plant, parish priest of Lane Cove Parish directed our retreat. This has been the fourth time he has done so. As with his approach, he provided many insights and scholarship through his sessions, provoking us to search deeper for meaning in the Scriptures in application to our lives.
Confrere Paul Grew had, once again, been our very efficient co-ordinator.
A number of retreatants have generously shared what they took away from the retreat.
One memorable part of Fr Plant’s address to us today was his reference to Moral Relativism or the Dictatorship of Relativism.
Under these headings, there are no absolutes. Nothing is sacred or profound. As such they are the antithesis to religion. To claim that we can be good without God is a form of self-idolatry.
He also made several references to Jordan Peterson who expressed a similar view in the axiom – Triviality is Unethical.
A second recollection for me from Fr Plant’s sessions was his reference to Clive Hamilton’s book, Affluenza.
The theme from the book that Fr Plant put to us was that, “too much is never enough” and that we are in the grip of a consumerism that is unique in human history. We overwork, we spend huge amounts on things we never use, then we throw them out.
The powerful message with strong spiritual implications is that generally our houses are bigger than ever, but our families are smaller. Our kids go to the best schools we can afford, but we hardly see them. We’ve got more money to spend, yet we’re further in debt than ever before.
The Western world is in the throes of a consumption binge that may be unprecedented. We aspire to the lifestyles of the rich and famous at the cost of our Christian faith, family, friends and personal fulfilment. Rates of stress, depression and obesity are up as we wrestle with the emptiness and endless disappointments of a shallow materialist existence.
Perhaps for the individual Sub-Priory attendees at Canisius House last week the relevance of Affluenza may not be so great today as earlier in our careers, but we were all able to relate to Fr Plant’s strong message and the need to get our lives and priorities in place.
I found the two days satisfying and enriching. Always good to pray with other members.
Useful to be reminded in faith of God’s ever presence, Jesus fulfilling Jewish history through the Torah and the narrative of the Gospels. Fr. Plant always provides an interesting list for further reading.
Great food for the soul… Much has been gained.
The retreats of the Sub-priory of the Immaculate Conception with their emphasis on Marian Devotion have become a way of life for its members….an annual drink from the waters of life.
We happened to have as our guide, Fr. Geoffrey Plant, a retreat (grand)master of superb skill. After four rounds of Fr. Plant’s discussions, I will return for more.
The themes this time are so aptly tuned to our times – happiness, solidarity, transgression, contemplation, perfection, fear and suffering, sin and evil, acceptance of our own Cross and social perturbation and upheaval as interpreted by and as interpreted to us by Jesus as seen through the eyes of Evangelist St. Matthew.
The great boon and grace granted to us by God is, as St Theresa of Avila so succinctly puts is “best recognised by us by praising God and rejoicing in His goodness and in His Being who He Is and in desiring His honour and glory”.
Another spiritual and organisational triumph; a short journey of interrogation and reflection.
Our thanks go to Confrere Paul Grew for giving us this opportunity of understanding, scholarship and camaraderie and to those who, as in the previous couple of years, pre-publishing the daily prayers – Lauds, Vespers and Compline – within a programme including rosary, communion, Mass and interactive discussion as well as special prayers aligned to current social and religious issues.
Deirdre O’Dowd Page:
Although I only had the first day of the Retreat, due to combined jet lag and lingering effects of an attack of flu, I really was very impressed with Fr Geoff Plant’s presentation. I thought his handling of a highly intelligent and committed group of people was brilliant.
His knowledge and his insight and communication skills were brilliant. His dealings with difficult and thoughtful questions was instant and informed.
I was devastated to miss the second day of the Retreat but would hope to have the pleasure of someday repeating fully, the experience.
The Subpriory of The Immaculate Conception is a spiritual community within the Australian Association of the Order of Malta, founded in 2007 in the tradition of Subpriories and Grand Priories that have enriched the history of the Order. The Subpriory assists its members in leading a life of spirituality and in being a strong, shining light to other members in practising the charisms of our Order (tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum). The Subpriory is currently comprised of 35 members from Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore, illustrating that it serves a regional purpose for the Order. Learn more.