Thursday, September 26, 2013

I've always wanted to make a retreat down to Cape May. Or just visit Cape May. In season or out. But since that ain't gonna happen, I decided on the next best thing: a series at Stella Maris in Elberon. Actually, I've always wanted to make a retreat at Stella Maris. So, in a way, I'm killing two birds with one stone.

Except this series isn't exactly a retreat. Retreat weekends at Stella Maris start around $350, and go up from there. And there's a waiting list. No, this series costs significantly less and comes with a textbook ... and breakfast! Delicious breakfast. It's nine Thursday mornings for a couple of hours between today and right before Thanksgiving. Yeah, I know! That's quite a commitment. But at least I get to see the ocean each time I'm there.

I found out about this series in the newspaper.

That sums it up. A watered down Spiritual Exercises. The textbook is from Loyola Press but I haven't begun to read it yet. The first session, we got acquainted. The group is an existing one with some members coming on Thursday morning for the past five years. There is one other new person like myself but she is with friends. It doesn't matter: I really am there for me. And God. Me and God.

Our only prayer experience that first session was a meditation on Ps. 139:13,
You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.
When I got by myself, after looking at the ocean for a long time and taking in the destruction along their shoreline that persists, I recalled vaguely hearing that exact verse earlier in the week. And I was with my son when I heard it. So it wasn't at daily mass. Then I remembered - and this may give you a sense of the week I had that I had so much trouble placing my recollection - my son read that verse in his religious education class on Tuesday evening. He's in sixth grade and they are studying the Bible and the first class consisted of students reading verses from the Bible. And Timmy read Ps. 139:13. It's so neat to hear your own child read about his mother's womb, you know? With all due respect to the religious present. And I got the sense that God needs my cooperation to do anything. Or at least my availability.

So that was my word for the day. Besides the refreshing sound of the ocean and the delightful drive through the mansions of Deal, NJ. Deal (and to some extent, Long Branch) is so different from, say, Point Pleasant and Belmar. In the latter towns, small homes are crammed seven deep between Ocean Ave. and the ocean. But in Deal, shore houses sit on large parcels of land. It's much more open and calming.

Today is the end of Sukkoth and I saw many people walking through the neighborhood, greeting each other. Such a happy time even if these are not the Orthodox of Lakewood.

In the end, I had to leave on time because my older boys had an early dismissal from school. But it seemed that many of the women were going to hang out for a while. Maybe next time.

I already know of two Thursdays I'll miss. There's the Teachers' Convention in early November - they aren't missing it again, I can tell you - and my daughter's class trip to Jenkinson's Aquarium. I'm not missing that. And I'm skipping Community Bible Study meetings until after Thanksgiving because it's the same time slot, Thursday mornings.

For the first time in its 158-year history, the NJEA Convention has been cancelled. NJEA President Barbara Keshishian announced the decision today, "in light of the natural disaster that has struck New Jersey and Atlantic City in particular. It was a difficult decision, but we believe it was the correct one, considering the statewide impact of this unprecedented storm."

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