WALTHAM -- The Hispanic men of the Archdiocese of Boston had an opportunity for reflection and prayer on their role as Catholic men at an all-day retreat held on Feb. 28 at St. Mary Church in Waltham.
Over 400 men, from all the corners of the archdiocese, packed themselves into the pews at St. Mary Church as Father Mario Castaneda, of the Diocese of Palm Beach, Fla., exhorted them to reflect on their roles as fathers, sons and workers.
With spirited talks that were dotted with scriptural passages, Father Castaneda began the retreat by speaking about the importance of being Christian fathers, and not allowing the responsibility of bringing children to the faith to rest solely with mothers. Each talk was followed by a reflection delivered by one of the retreat participants.
“Maybe in the world we find irresponsible fathers who bring children into this world and abandon them -- and I hope and pray that none of you here are among those irresponsible fathers -- but God is not an irresponsible father. God does not bring children into this world to abandon them,” Father Castaneda said.
“God’s love is unconditional. God loves me not because of who I am, God loves me because he is a father -- my father,” he continued.
For Luis Enrique Campos, a parishioner from St. Mary Church who is originally from Mexico, this talk struck a chord. During a break, Campos told The Pilot that the talk helped him to understand his wife.
“I lived very little with my wife before coming to this country to make money. She stayed in Mexico with our two children and I think that this will help me to lead my family to God, and not leave all the weight to my wife. I can’t wait to go back to them,” Campos said.
Following the first talk, a band led the assembly in religious songs before Father Castaneda began the second address, entitled “What it means to be a son.”
“The word ‘Abba’ means ‘Daddy,’” he began. “It’s a tender word, full of love and affection and that’s how we should feel about God.”
“We shouldn’t fear God...it was God himself who chose you in the womb,” he continued.
Father Castaneda went on to say that as sons of God, “you are allowed to enjoy the fruits of his love.”
“I want to tell you something: sometimes we live in poverty and I’ll tell you why. It’s because sometimes we live without the knowledge that we are the children of the richest father -- our celestial father,” he said as the assembly spontaneously erupted into applause.
In addition to being sons of God, each person is also the son of his parents, he continued, noting that, “the only commandment that has a blessing with it is ‘Honor your father and mother.’”
“The secret has been revealed to us children. Do you want to live under the blessing of God? Honor your father and mother,” he said. “Even if they weren’t the best, or made mistakes. Never forget they still love you.”
Lastly, Father Castaneda underscored, “We are not only sons of God and sons of our parents. We are the children of the Church.”
“Listen, boys of God, the Church needs you,” he exclaimed. “God does not look for extraordinary people. God looks for ordinary men to do extraordinary works through us.”
He added that in his experience men often feel they have little to offer the Church.
“Offer what you have,” he stressed. “What you have is enough to glorify God. There is no one so poor that he has nothing to offer to the Church and to God.”
In the reflection following the second session, Jose Rodriguez, a seminarian from the Redemptoris Mater House of Formation, spoke of his experience as a son being raised by parents who taught him the importance of faith.
“The most important thing my parents did was transmit the faith to me,” he said. “They could give [my brothers and I] life because they had found life in the Church.”
“To them, it was important that I find the Church as my mother and God as my father who guides me,” said Rodriguez.
Prior to the final session of the day, a hot lunch was served by several dozen women who volunteered to cook for the event. According to Helen Aviles, one of the cooks, 30 parishioners offered to give up their Saturday in order to cook for the retreatants.
“These are our husbands, our brothers, our brothers in Christ and we are happy to serve them,” said Aviles holding a tray of rice and beans.
Following lunch, participants were encouraged to participate in the sacrament of confession prior to the final address of the day: “Why do I work?”
“Work is not a curse. So much so that God himself worked and then he rested,” Father Castaneda said.
“If we embrace work as a blessing, and not as a curse, then what changes is not our work, but our perception. You can serve God through your work,” Father said. “Then that means that our work begins to have a mission.”
“Maybe you say that in your work there is not mission -- that you work in a pagan environment, that your work is boring, that it is tough, but don’t forget that each of us is called to be a saint at our work, not to be contaminated by the world, but to be a saint,” he said.
Father Castaneda also noted that it is important to find a balance between rest and work.
“It is an error to think it’s all about money. Rest has a mission as well,” he said.
The day concluded with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley. In attendance were several priests of the archdiocese as well as Auxiliary Bishop Emilio Allue, Episcopal Vicar for the Hispanic Apostolate.
“I have been on other retreats before,” commented Juan Moncada, a parishioner from St. Patrick Church in Brockton who is originally from Honduras. “But what I have really taken away from here is how Father Mario united the ‘normal’ life of a man with being a Christian. He shows how I can take regular life and add spiritual life to it. Today was very good.”
The retreat, the first of its kind in the archdiocese, was the brainchild of Father Michael Nolan, pastor of St. Mary Church. Father Nolan, together with a team of parishioners, including Deacon Eduardo Mora, began planning the event only two months ago. Plans are currently being made to hold an all-day Hispanic women’s retreat in late spring.
“Seeing today and how well it has gone, let’s hope we can do this every year,” Deacon Mora said.