Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Sunday 19 September |
Our Lady of La Salette
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

How a Chance Meeting With Father Benedict Groeschel Helped Save a Retreat Center

Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

Mark Gordon - published on 10/14/14


Father Benedict was true to his word. For the next decade and a half he came regularly to speak, often twice a year. When we began an annual conference on sacred art and architecture, Father Benedict agreed to be one of our keynote speakers. He recommended the retreat center to his brothers in the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and their lay associates. He vouched for me at EWTN, which led to two appearances on that network. Along the way, we changed the name of the place, revamped the annual program, and scrubbed both the visiting and permanent staff.

The fortunes of the retreat center slowly began to turn. We attracted a larger lay community, became self-sufficient, and saw our reputation shift from backward-looking outpost to robust institution. Eventually, we were able to detach the center from the religious order that had founded it and turn ownership over to an independent, largely lay board that operated under the oversight of local bishops. The ministry thrives today, thanks in part to the words and witness of Father Benedict Groeschel.

I left the retreat center in early 2002 and started my own business. I saw Father Benedict a few times after that, but never in circumstances where we could spend any appreciable time together. He wasn’t perfect—he may have misspoke when assessing the clerical sexual abuse crisis, for example—but he was an indefatigable preacher, a friend of the poor, a daily reader of Augustine, a lover of Jesus, a true son of the Church, and an indispensable mentor to tens of thousands, including me.

When I heard about Father Benedict’s death, my mind didn’t wander to any of this. Instead, I recalled how he opened his talk the very first time I saw him, at that apologetics conference. He said that he had just come from the chapel, where he prayed before the Blessed Sacrament and asked for the courage to defend Christ. There was an uncomfortable pause and then he slammed his fist down on the lectern and shouted, “WHAT RUBBISH! WHAT ARROGANCE! We don’t defend Christ! Christ defends us!”

That apostolic zeal, that fire for the truth is Father Benedict’s greatest legacy. And those who were touched by that fire, personally or at a distance, have been blessed indeed.

Mark Gordonis a partner at PathTree, a consulting firm focused on organizational resilience and strategy. He also serves as president of both the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Diocese of Providence, and a local homeless shelter and soup kitchen. Mark is the author of Forty Days, Forty Graces: Essays By a Grateful Pilgrim. He and his wife Camila have been married for 31 years and they have two adult children.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Pope considers what to do with pro-abortion Catholic politicians
2
ARGENTINE CHILDREN
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
3
Berthe and Marcel
Lauriane Vofo Kana
This couple has the longest marriage in France
4
RESURRECTION
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
5
Kathleen N. Hattrup
On same-sex unions, Pope says Church doesn’t have power to change...
6
Mathilde De Robien
How a lost masterpiece of sacred art was discovered thanks to chi...
7
communion
Philip Kosloski
How receiving Holy Communion can drive away demons
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.