It’s almost cliché to say that, in spite of the great losses, the pandemic brought blessings as well. I would like to mention some of the blessings that we have discovered here at the Retreat Center.
Since it is widely accepted that being outdoors in a group is safer than being indoors, many groups have opted to have Mass, prayer services and conferences out by the Cave of St. Ignatius.
This has proven to be a re-discovery of the Cave and the lawn in front of it as a worship space. There is something so beautiful about seeing a group gathered for prayer out there with the majestic trees filling their vision and the odd deer delighting them as it passes by on the trails above the Cave.
Similarly, many groups have opted to take their meal trays outside where we have provided TV tables for them. In the breezeway or along the sidewalks, they set themselves up and enjoy dining al fresco. Although the dining room has an unparalleled view of Silicon Valley, the liveliness of the conversation outside suggests that the experience of being in community is deepening by taking meals together in the fresh air.
The last thing that the pandemic has brought us is a whole group of retreatants who really missed this place in the year that we were mostly closed. If ever we doubted what we do here, we cannot deny the love that these 38 acres have garnered in the hearts of so many of our retreatants over the years. Time and time again, retreatants show up here and express their appreciation that they can finally be on retreat at El Retiro. And it is wonderful for us to welcome them back to this holy and prayerful place.
Fr. John Auther, SJ is a Jesuit for 42 years and a priest for almost 30 years. In his pastoral ministry he has devoted a good deal of time to Spanish-speaking work, detention facilities and retreats. He began working at JRC in January 2020.