Oct. 26, 2019 - Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House in Lake Dallas, Texas, celebrated its 60th anniversary on Oct. 19 with a Mass and dinner. Father Joe Tetlow, SJ, ordained during the house’s first year, presented some highlights of how the house’s expansion tracked the development of its ministry in the Spiritual Exercises. His remarks follow.
The old stone house, out a long gravel road across prairie, was blessed in 1959 in Latin. The dozen retreat talks and the homilies were heavily theological. The retreat deepened religious practice through sound devotions: the Stations of the Cross, confession, benediction. A prayer book used in the 60s scheduled a rosary each day: Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries.
The captains’ eagerness (in recruiting retreatants) made more rooms necessary, so St. Joseph’s Hall was blessed in 1963, still in Latin.
Then Vatican II brought its changes, most notably drawing laity more fully into spiritual life and opening liturgical practice. So, when the dining facility was blessed in 1986, all was in English. But the talks began moving toward a knowledge of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, now highlighted in the Luminous Mysteries promulgated by St. John Paul II.
When Advent Hall opened in 1988, retreatants were invited to “go to your private room and pray in secret to your Father,” as Jesus urged.
Yet more changes were coming. The Church was now “The People of God,” and presentations were drawing from Gaudium et Spes and the encyclicals of the popes. The books in the library—dedicated in 1994—urged laity to a serious “spiritual life,” which, until these changes, had been reserved for clergy and religious. Religious devotions gave way to more time in personal prayer in silence. Before the end of the century, the retreat conferences were being given by lay women and then men.
Gatherings other than weekend retreats grew during the new millennium. They multiplied when Campion Hall was completed in 2009. Its large conference rooms housed lay men and women and Jesuits in seminars on Ignatian discernment, workshops on preaching the Exercises, and practicums on offering Ignatian spiritual direction. The weekend retreats included several in Spanish, retreats for deacon couples, and parish groups.
Silence still preserves the space for the Holy Spirit, though Montserrat now sits a bare mile from an interstate. The Spiritual Exercises are now the common heritage of all Jesuit colleagues. They are better understood than in 1959 and more flexibly applied than in the past century. But Spiritual Exercises remain the template for everything and silent prayer is still what Montserrat is really about.