Preach Christ Crucified: The Tree Bears Fruit Reflections on Preaching Recovery Retreats in Passionist Retreat Houses
by Brother Francis Crotty, FSC
Over the past decades Passionist retreat centers have conducted or hosted numerous recovery retreats. The spirituality of Twelve Step Programs and their relationship to the Passionist charism are a rich yet unexplored tradition. Brother Francis Crotty, FSC is one of the most respected retreat masters of recovery retreats. It is with great thanks and respect that the editors are pleased to share with you his reflections on how he began to participate with the Passionist Congregation in such an important apostolate of the twentieth century.
Editor Morgan P. Hanlon, C.P.
On May of 1967, I was asked to facilitate a Matt Talbot retreat (a retreat for those who are recovering from the effects—personal or social—of the disease of alcoholism and other addictions) in Sag Harbor, New York. Because the original facilitator was taken ill, the retreatants were pressed to have a retreat leader, so this was my first experience as a facilitator. I was asked to share my experiences as to why I needed the Twelve Step Plan of Recovery and how I implemented those principles in my recovery journey and my daily living. This was the start of my involvement in recovery retreats, and it has continued to grow.
While going to meetings, I developed a close relationship with several members of the Passionist Community of Union City, NJ. That relationship led to my being asked to be part of a Retreat Team and this was my initiation into the Twelve Step Retreats in the Passionist’s Retreat Center.
I believe it was in October of 1970 that Passionist Father Clement Buckley and I had a retreat at the Cardinal Spellman Spiritual Center in the Bronx. Shortly after that, Father Clem had a lung operation and was incapacitated. Then I teamed with Passionist Father Robert Mulgrew, and about a year later he died from the results of a heart attack. I did some work with Passionist Father Fintan Lombard and shortly thereafter he died unexpectedly in 1973. This was too emotionally draining and I decided to continue in retreat work but not to be a member of a team.
Much to my surprise, I was invited to do additional retreats at Passionist retreat houses at Shrewsbury, MA, West Springfield, MA, West Hartford, CT and Bronx, NY. I was also privileged to conduct workshops and seminars for members of the Passionist Community. In preparing the content materials for the retreats, I freely used the Scriptures (Old and New Testaments) especially the parables and about all the Redemption and its mysteries of God’s love. In order to present to those on retreat the process that God uses to draw all into His love, I used the principles for spirituality as outlined in the Twelve Steps. This is the “road map” which emphasizes the responsible actions and positive attitudes that would lead each one to God’s grace.
Facilitating retreats in the various Passionist Spiritual Centers is continually uplifting for me. The atmosphere and general tone is that of peace. Each Center creates a “safe place” in which each retreatant is able to “rekindle the gift that is within them.” The warm and gracious hospitality that is offered to everyone and the kind and welcoming personal greeting to each is not soon forgotten. The availability of the entire staff in assisting the people in the healing process of reconciliation and personal contact with the love of God through the sufferings, death and resurrection of Jesus our Savior, is commendable. The tender compassion of the Passionists is contagious. That each retreatant can be “clothed in Christ” seems to be the mission of the Passionist Community. This mission is deeply rooted in the mystery of the Cross, so that “all may have life and have it abundantly.”
The mission brings the message of salvation to all, especially those suffering from apparent failure and deep frustration in many areas of their human existence. It is in making known the love of God through the death and life of Jesus on the Cross that you have become agents of God’s healing and transforming grace. For the retreatants, you are the image of Christ. You are helping other’s to achieve wholesome spirituality.
Each Passionist is truly “God’s Man.” Your participation in each retreat and with each retreatant for healing, change of attitudes, reconciliation, and moving on in spiritual growth is proof of the mission of the Passionist. The great mystery of the Passion permeates the daily life through addictions to any person, place or thing. You bring Christ into the life of each retreatant because you are “clothed in Christ.” You present a “map of life” for the people on their journey to Christ’s peace. It is on this journey of a new way of life that you present the challenge to allow God to be in control so that each one may choose a proper style of life. You witness in your lifestyle the individual and personal disciplines that can lead each one toward wholeness in Christ for the sake of others. Your caring and presence are proof through the Cross of Christ
For me it has been and will always be an honor and privilege to be the beneficiary of such greatness. While a facilitator, I consider myself as a retreatant in the Passionist Spiritual Centers.
I named three of the Passionist Community, but there are many more that have influenced my daily life and, for that I am grateful.