A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Holy Week Retreat at the Catholic Discipleship College

For the first time, Catholic Discipleship College held an open Holy Week retreat, inviting anyone interested to join the students in journeying through the mysteries of our Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection. The local Catholic community responded generously, with over twenty people visiting per day and around forty people attending cumulatively.

The Holy Week Retreat included daily morning & evening prayer, adoration, Mass, rosary, and a variety of lessons given by the renowned Father Dominique Faure. Father Dominique’s reputation precedes him: his monthly travel schedule usually includes places like Tokyo, Calcutta, Paris, Haiti, Bangladesh and Ethiopia; a circuit which he has been on for more than ten years. Each lesson he gave on the retreat was filled with amazing insights, precision, clarity and a deceptive simplicity. Yet despite the intensity of the subject matter, it is Father’s warmth and kindness that shines through.

The Community

Each day, alongside out prayer life was a chance to get to know each other and build up friendships. Shared lunches and dinners helped develop bonds, and guests were delighted to cosy up in the corner of the library with one of its good books during free time. There were also opportunities to have a walk around the nature reserve nearby or relax with the students.

The Sessions 

Lisa lighting the candle

Lisa lighting the candle

Because there were usually four hour-long sessions given per day over five days, it is difficult to summarise everything, however Father Dominique stressed a number of important themes. The following is what I took away from the retreat.

Of principal importance was that we see God not as a task-master, but as a loving Father and friend. This means that we ought not seek the perfection of virtues but rather strive to rely on His friendship and mercy. As Father Dominique says: “The work of God is to believe”.

Another theme was the importance of drawing close to Christ in his suffering, and accepting the darkness of faith as a great gift from God. By this, he means that while it may be easy to have friendship with Christ when life is good, it is in difficult times that we have the opportunity to respond to our suffering with Christ in a loving and responsive way, entering into a deeper friendship.

Also emerging from his talks was the need for us to accept God into our prayer life as receptacles rather than loudspeakers. We need to accept silence as a means to drink from the Father’s love and to allow Christ to live and stay with us – drawing us away from our imagination and own methods of control, and instead to exist alongside our Holy friend. Many participants felt a change in their lives when they included this insight into their prayer lives, claiming it gives them renewed vigour in their faith rather than draining them.

The Guests’ Reactions

Many of the participants were happy to share about their experience. Andrew George was keen to share how he had discovered more how limited we are and dependent on God. Asked if he would come back next year, he replied: “definitely”. Victoria Ning was equally enthusiastic: “we were very blessed to be able to listen to, and absorb some of Father Dominique’s knowledge and experience that he shared with us over the course of the retreat.”

A Student’s Reflection

As a current student, this Holy Week has been wonderful to be a part of. Our retreat included attending the Auckland Cathedral’s Chrism and Easter Vigil Masses, Stations of the Cross through the streets of Auckland with 1000 other Catholics, and participating in an authentic Passover meal, including full readings, the hiding of the unleavened bread, the place reserved for Elijah, and a dish of parsley, horseradish and sweet fruits. Especially under Fr Dominique’s direction, this Holy Week has been a meaningful experience for me, and a great opportunity to share my faith with the guests.   


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