Silent Retreat

The silent  retreat given by Fr. Hugo  was an incomparably important element of Dorothy Day’s spiritual formation. She highly encouraged others  to attend it regularly as she did.   Fr. Hugo gave it for decades from the 1940s through the 1980’s. Denise, Mark, Lynn and others from the St. Francis house took it, sometimes more than once.

One of the parables from the retreat sought to illustrate the notion of attachment, but it also had a lesson in accountability. As this   story goes,  the superior of a friary once inadvertently delegated the writing of the annual begging letter to one of the more simple-minded friars. The tradition was for this letter to highlight  a particular expense of the friary . One year it was clothes, another, shoes, another cleaning supplies, and so forth.  This well  meaning friar wrote the begging letter about the needs of the friars to have tobacco and the letter was sent out before it could be changed. The reaction of the  friary donors was unpleasant but spiritually salutary, illustrating the value of openness.

St. Francis used to be fairly open. When Mark ran the house and held the checkbook, if one lived in the house, one could see the checkbook and the house daybook. We who lived there  were free to answer any questions from non-residents  as we saw fit. And Joe, who edited the house newsletter but did not live there , kept people apprised of projects and changes and the like. Most importantly, though, anyone who had an interest could walk through the door or knock and enter, virtually at any time. And anyone could see for himself what transpired there and decide how they wished to contribute. Most of the folks who lived there were open about their Catholicity, folks were invited to say rosaries or the Office or go to Mass.   Recent visits to St. Francis house during the day revealed no signs of activity and the newsletter from the house was somewhat sparse on details.

White Rose Catholic Worker has the openness of a younger house. Their budget is published and what they do is published. This promotes trust.