“You’re not from Texas are you?” was the first and only question Father Robert Kennedy, SJ, answered at a past Christian Zen Retreat at the Holy Family Retreat Center in Beaumont. It was followed by three days of silence.
Father Kennedy, from Jersey City, N.J., will be back at the Holy Family Retreat Center April 20-23 for another Christian Zen Retreat, and again it will be a silent retreat.
“From the beginning until the end there will be no talk, period, until the farewell dinner,” Father Kennedy said.
“The calling of the Society of Jesus is interfaith work,” Father Kennedy said of his order, the Jesuits. “To be Catholic means to be universal. We reach out to people everywhere.”
Since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has been reaching out more to other spiritualties – including Buddhism.
Buddhism is the largest religion in the Far East and is older than Christianity.
Father Kennedy spent eight years in Japan where he became familiar with Buddhism and the Zen practices.
Zen is a way of practicing Buddhism through silent attention. Christians can practice Christianity in the same manner.
“It’s a wonderful religion and fits in well with Christianity and the modern world,” Father Kennedy said of Buddhism and Zen practices.
The Christian Zen Retreat blends Catholic faith with the Zen practice of Sesshin. Sesshin is the Zen practice of intense meditation.
“It is necessary to be quiet, to quiet the chattering mind, and let something else come in,” Father Kennedy said.
“The Zen mind is a listening mind,” he said.
The Christian Zen Retreat features very little teaching and a lot of silence.
“It’s very hard work, to stop the mind from going into its usual ruts,” Father Kennedy said.
This hard work pays off by allowing new thoughts in and deepening relationships with others.
“It’s to listen completely and develop a capacity to truly listen without judgement,” Father Kennedy said of the goal of the Christian Zen Retreat.
“You hear what people are saying for the first time,” Father Kennedy said of the results of the retreat.
The retreat begins with dinner at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday and ends at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday. Registration begins at 4 p.m. on Thursday
The Christian Zen Retreat is $215 per person with a $75 non-refundable deposit. This will cover room and meals.
The registration form is at www.dioceseofbmt.org. Once there, click on the Holy Family Retreat tab, then on “Click here to download the Holy Family Center Brochure” tab. The registration form is at the bottom of that page.
The form must be completed, and along with a check, mailed to the address on the form. It can also be dropped off at the same address, and checks or cash are accepted.
Please pre-register by April 6.
For information, call Holy Family Retreat Center at 409-899-5617.