Retreat Reflections: “Growing Through the Difficulties of Life”

Megan Pepin is a parishioner at Holy Family in Kirkland. She and her husband, Steven, recently attended our March 23-25 retreat “Growing Through the Difficulties of Life,” led by internationally-known author and speaker Fr. Jacques Philippe.

      Megan Pepin

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a retreat at the Archbishop Brunett Retreat Center at the Palisades, led by Fr. Jacques Philippe, of the Community of the Beatitudes. This retreat snuck up on me; Palm Sunday weekend, the beginning of Holy Week, and the celebration of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem before His Passion, also took me by surprise.

But what a gift it was to be surprised. Jesus’s presence at the Palisades is palpable. There is a peace that washes over you when you walk into the building, and the presence of the Blessed Sacrament truly radiates throughout the place and the people inside. And then, there is Fr. Philippe. This priest is one of the holiest people I have ever encountered. From the very beginning of the retreat, peace radiated from him through his words and his presence.

The topic of the retreat was “Growing Through the Difficulties of Life.” Though this is a daunting subject, Fr. Philippe approached each session of the retreat with a smile, frequent jokes and laughter, and a deep understanding of the most universal human experience: suffering. He established an atmosphere of reflection by asking us to be silent for the day on Saturday, the bulk of the retreat, so that we did not fall into the temptation of chattering away what the Lord was speaking to us. This opened up so much space for personal contemplation, soaking in Fr. Philippe’s words, and asking the Lord what our response should be to the challenge of suffering in our lives.

This retreat came at a perfect time in my life, putting a particular difficulty in context of the divine plan. Our Lord knows just what we need, when we need it. Fr. Philippe taught us the value of suffering, ways to give it meaning and decrease its burden, and questions to ask ourselves to begin to view suffering through the eyes of faith, hope, and love. The time of prayer, opportunities to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, and the beauty of the atmosphere at the Palisades were truly transformative experiences that I will carry with me.