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Full Version: SSPX Retreat Experience – Our Lady of Sorrows Retreat House – Phoenix
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I thought I would provide my thoughts and experiences of the 5 day Ignatian retreat by the Priests of the SSPX. Previously, prior to signing up for retreat, I had searched FE and other avenues on the web in order to find out info about these retreats. I found a lot of people had more questions than there was answers and I was hoping to find some details that were not provided. With this in mind I intend to give a little account of my experience to help encourage those who may be thinking of attending themselves – especially those who may hold the SSPX in suspicion or otherwise be cautious about attending such a retreat because of their irregular canonical situation.

I attend Mass and the sacraments almost exclusively at the FSSP but occasionally attend at the SSPX. I lean more toward the SSPX than the FSSP and if the tree were to fall it would fall on the SSPX. I knew by going to a SSPX retreat I could rest assured I was getting Catholic teaching untainted by modernism or emotional fuzzies yet deep down there was a little uneasiness – afterall, this was the ‘forbidden’ SSPX. But more on that later.

Upon arrival I checked in and was given a key to my room, the option to buy or borrow the required books for the retreat (Christian Warfare, The Imitation of Christ, and the New Testament) and a brief tour of the facilities. My first impression of my room was, “Wow! This is small!” A twin bed, a chair, a sink with mirror, a small 2 ft closet rod for clothes, and a little nightstand with lamp was all that occupied the room. “Cell” would be the more appropriate word for the room, But I was here for spiritual reasons and not a vacation and so the thought of living in a cell “like the monks” gave a little sense of excitement to it. Upon scanning the room more closely I noticed there was a picture of Our Lady on one of the walls, a crucifix on the other, and a small holy water font by the door. After unpacking I went downstairs for a quick cup of coffee before the first conference.

In my head I had imagined the lectures taking place in a chapel like a sermon at Mass. Instead there was a conference room with folding chairs and tables. I took a seat and waited like everyone else. The Priest entered and everyone rose. Father then led a few prayers – and the first conference commenced. We were given the run-down on the do’s and don’ts and were told we need to keep a threefold silence: not only a strict silence of the mouth but also of the eyes and the mind. We were directed to keep our eyes down and our minds and imaginations tamed. We were to observe this threefold silence for the duration of the retreat but this silence should not make us unaware of the needs of our neighbor, especially at table. We were further directed that whatever seat we take at table, at chapel, or conference we were to keep that place for the duration of the retreat. I thought this was a wise directive.

I will not go into complete detail of the retreat since I do not want to spoil it for everybody but the retreat basically consists of about an hour conference followed by a 30 minute or so meditation which you can either go back to your room to make, which I mostly did, or to the Chapel. A bell is rang when the meditation ends and then you pray your closing prayers followed by a brief free period of 15  to 30 minutes before the next activity. Generally speaking there were 3 conferences per day with the rest of the day consisting of visits to the Blessed Sacrament, the community rosary, the Divine Office and similar activities. There is a period of free time right after lunch which lasts for about an hour and a half which you are free to do some spiritual reading, go for a walk, take a nap, seek direction from a Priest etc.

One thing I would recommend you bring which is not listed on the official list is a tablet and pen. Some were made available to us who did not bring any but it’s nice to have a pad and pen the first day. You will want to copy down the next days schedule from the board in the lunch room at the close of each day so you’re sure when to rise and what will take place. The schedule is demanding but also structured  in a way that will leave you inspired to try to establish a sense of order in your own life (if you lack it as I did). In this area the retreat has taught me much about sticking to a schedule which includes morning prayer, meditation, and spiritual reading and going to bed and rising at set times. For this I’m very grateful.

The typical day of retreat has you rising to a bell at 6 am and continuing through the night until about 8-9pm. By the end of the day you’ll have no problem going to sleep and the beds, despite the way they look, were very comfortable. In fact, the whole room serves it’s purpose in a beautiful yet simple sort of way. The room I once gasped at how small it was became a sort of friend – a place where you’ll spend intimate moments contemplating the subject matter of the current meditation, praying, and receiving much grace.

The main meal is lunch time and I must say is quite delicious! The chef, God bless him whomever he is, cooks up some nice vittles! Breakfast consists of a help-yourself style buffet consisting of bagels, muffins, pastries, fruits, hard boiled eggs, juice, coffee and the likes. Dinner was light as well and consisted of things like lunchmeat sandwiches, hotdogs, or things of that nature. But Lunch! Mmmm-Mmmm! I liked the way they did this – with lunch being the main meal – since I believe it was St. Benedict who considered dinner a false hunger since all one did after eating was sleep.

Being able to take part, or at least observe, the Divine Office, chanted in latin by the Priests and resident brothers is amazing! If you’ve never been exposed to this, as was I, you’ll certainly be inspired but you’ll also probably be flipping back in forth in the provided books - kind of like the first time you ever went to the traditional Mass. But, Father explained it after the first couple of times of seeing people with question marks over their heads and by the second or third day you’ll be a pro.

As I said earlier, having survived mostly within the Diocesan structure my whole life, coming from a novus ordo background I didn’t know to what extent the criticisms of the post conciliar Church would happen. Sure, I’ve been to SSPX Chapels many times before and I’ve always found their criticism more subdued than how novus ordoers present it. In fact, from the pulpit I’ve probably heard more post conciliar criticism coming from the mouths of the FSSP than I’ve heard from SSPX. And let me clarify, I have no problems with criticism of the post conciliar age – but in honesty I’ve always had this little fear way deep down inside that one day I’ll go to SSPX and then BAM! They’ll start preaching against the Pope or something – I think growing up in the novus ordo and gurgling down EWTN had made my very soul scarred with this deep down fear – the little whisper of “they’re schismatic…” and  “If this rebellious pride doesn’t manifest itself at their chapels then it will most assuredly manifest itself in 5 days of confinement with the SSPX…. . “....I was wrong. Sure there was a “the post conciliar church doesn’t do this or that anymore” but I guess I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more criticism. Strange huh? Actually, the worse thing said was to avoid the novus ordo Mass… which I happen to agree with. But instead of having my irrational fears vindicated I came to realize the holiness of these Priests and how much they cared for the Church! I saw how much they prayed, and I prayed with them. I saw self control, moderation, and virtue at work. For the first time I saw Priests who knew they were fathers and acted like it. Their very presence demanded a certain respect which was unfamiliar to me. This retreat has given me a new respect and fondness for the Priests of the SSPX – actually for all Priests in general but especially for the Priests of the SSPX.

During the retreat there were opportunities to get enrolled in the brown scapular& miraculous medal (didn’t realize there was an enrollment for this) as well as the opportunity to join other traditional confraternities.

Alas, when the final day came there was a certain fear of going back into the world – a fear of going back into the daily grind, the anxiety of finding out ways to incorporate the things learned and the graces received into daily life. But with this fear and anxiety came hope. It can be done – not by my strength but by God’s grace. With faith and prayer it can and must be done! Looking back at the prior week makes you realize just how much this retreat was NOT relaxing. No, it was boot camp! Every military has boot camp to get weak hiney in shape and it’s no different for the Church militant!

If you get the opportunity to make the 5 day retreat please do! You won’t regret it. If anyone has any questions or concerns please PM me and I’d be happy to discuss them with you!

God Bless,


Thanks for the description. The traditional retreats were the same, except that there were speeches in the chapel, instead of conferences at tables, There were 4 speeches  a day, and absolute silence from the part of the participants. Priests were ready to hear confessions.

I always suspected the the SSPX is much less angry with the world around us, then most contributors here.
am leaving for one tomorrow!!! Tomorrow! It will begin on sunday afternoon and end on friday afternoon =D In kota kinabalu, malaysia, with 2 SSPX priests
Ruination that was very well written
are you a writer?
(12-03-2009, 11:36 PM)voxpopulisuxx Wrote: [ -> ]Ruination that was very well written
are you a writer?

No, I'm not a writer but thanks for the compliment. :-[
Ruination, what priest did you have? I have always wanted to go to a retreat, i just always seem to have a tiny baby when they come around
(12-04-2009, 12:05 AM)CanadianCatholic Wrote: [ -> ]Ruination, what priest did you have? I have always wanted to go to a retreat, i just always seem to have a tiny baby when they come around

Fr. Burfitt (Pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows) as well as Fr. Thomas Scott and Fr. Fesquet.
I appreciate SSPX enthusiasm in saving souls and restoration of the church.
God bless SSPX!  :pray:
Where was that retreat? Just the state and city.

Oh, its in the title. :-[

I attended my first SSPX retreat at the St. Ignatius Retreat House in Ridgefield, CT last month.  My experience was very similar, of course.  I will certainly be returning next year.

Retreat info is here, peeps:

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