Over the course of these next three days of the Easter Triduum, many Thomas Aquinas College students will spend their time in retreat, praying over, reading, and discussing the works of the Church’s next saint — Bl. John Paul II.
The idea for a John Paul II-themed retreat, says Head Chaplain Joseph Illo, was “the genius and brainchild” of fellow chaplain Rev. Michael Chabarek, O.P., who, like the erstwhile Karol Wojtyla, hails from Poland. “Fr. Michael was an altar boy back during the ‘Nine Days that Changed the World,’ so he has many personal recollections” of John Paul’s first visits to the Eastern bloc. With the late Holy Father’s canonization set for April 27, the two priests concluded that his works would be a timely subject for this year’s retreat.
The retreat begins with a presentation on the life of Bl. John Paul II, followed by studies of the Theology of the Body and Bl. John Paul’s call for the New Evangelization, as well as a viewing of the film Nine Days that Changed the World and a seminar discussion about one of Karol Wojtyla’s plays, The Jeweler’s Shop. The retreat conferences take place between the liturgies and rites of the Holy Triduum — Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Tenebrae, Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, and Stations of the Cross — culminating with the Easter Vigil late Saturday night. Then, in an annual College tradition, the students will celebrate the Resurrection with a party in St. Joseph Commons and a sunrise hike.
“Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis are building on what John Paul established in terms of evangelizing the modern world, and students here have a rock-solid foundation on which to build,” says Fr. Illo. “The purpose of this retreat is to encourage them to take the next step, to be evangelists in the world, to apply what they have learned to sanctifying the temporal order. That will be the takeaway from this retreat, in the words of John Paul II: Go out and build a civilization of love with what you have been given.”