Over the course of the Easter Triduum, Thomas Aquinas College students spent their time in retreat, practicing the Spiritual Exercise of St. Ignatius under the guidance of a Jesuit retreat master, Rev. Raymond Gawronski, S.J.

“We begin with Creation, and then move through the Fall, the Incarnation, the life of Our Lord, His passion, death and resurrection,” says Fr. Gawronski, a visiting scholar at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California, and a professor at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park. “It’s always Christocentric, always centered on Christ and His life, and it’s always working out of the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, who is the patron of all retreats in the Church.”

Rev. Ray Gawronski, S.J.
Rev. Ray Gawronski, S.J.The retreat consisted of five conferences, which took place between the liturgies and rites of the Holy Triduum — Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Tenebrae, Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, and Stations of the Cross — culminating with the Easter Vigil late Saturday night. Additionally, Fr. Gawronski encouraged retreatants to spend five hours in private contemplation and prayer. “I say to people, I’m going to say a lot of different things these next 45 minutes.… If something grabs you, or hits you, stay with it That will be God’s gift to you for the day.”

Retreatants took their meals together, in silence, in the campus coffee shop. At table students read aloud from Enchantments: Religion and the Power of the Word, by Rev. Thomas M. King, S.J. “Fr. King was a great theologian at Georgetown University,” says Fr. Gawronski, who describes the late Jesuit’s book as “a blend of philosophy, theology, science, and prayer.”

The ultimate purpose of the retreat, Fr. Gawronski adds, was to aid students’ in their contemplation. “We want to upgrade it a little bit, to the point where you’re actually listening to God.… God is great, and bigger than anything we can even imagine — though our imagination helps.”