Today begins a two week break from the parish, which may or may not translate into a two week break from this blog.
The break is not a holiday per se, but my “annual course,” which is an activity all members of Opus Dei are encouraged to do. In my case, it’s a good way for me to build up fraternity with the other diocesan priests in Australia who are in Opus Dei.*
My “annual course” is a course insofar as part of each day is dedicated to study. Last year, we studied the Compendium of the Catechism; the year before that was a revision of metaphysics. I don’t know what we’ll study this year.
But the annual course isn’t all study. There’s also sport, bush walking, time to read, or watch movies, or blog (!), and lots of prayer in common. Also, there is alcohol. I can’t imagine priests getting together to relax without generous provisions of cold beer, good wine and single-malt whisky. Not that we get drunk — that’s something I’ve relegated to my seminary days. (I’d like to think I’ve grown in virtue, but maybe I’m just getting too old to nurse a hangover.)
The annual course is a bit like a retreat, and a bit like a school camp, but it’s mostly like the annual vacation of a very large family. Being one of nine, I remember very well that our trips to the Gold Coast were certainly holidays, but organised holidays. A large family can’t not have a routine.
Like most things in Opus Dei, the annual course originated with the founder. I wonder if St Josemaría didn’t have the annual course of members in mind, when he wrote this:
I have always seen rest as time set aside from daily tasks, never as days of idleness.
Rest means recuperation: to gain strength, form ideals and make plans. In other words it means a change of occupation, so that you can come back later with a new impetus to your daily job.
This certainly sums up my experience of the annual course. It’s a great way to spend two weeks: restful, and also invigorating. If anything, my prayer life is strengthened and consolidated, which is more than can be said about some of my other holidays.
I hope to blog, but it isn’t easy when I’m away from my desktop computer. I guess I’ll have to get a notebook or iPad eventually, but in the meantime, I find a smartphone suffices. Too bad for me I dropped my iPhone one too many times this week, and smashed the screen! I hope its replacement is waiting for me when I return to the parish.
Canonically, I’m a priest incardinated to the Diocese of Ballarat, rather than the Prelature of Opus Dei, which is analogous to a diocese. I am, though, a member of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, which still makes me a priest in Opus Dei.
People sometimes ask me if I’ve ever thought about leaving the Diocese of Ballarat, and becoming a priest of the prelature. The answer is no. I joined Opus Dei for two reasons: (1) because I believe the Lord called me to join; and (2) because Opus Dei helps me to better serve my diocese. If I was to ever leave the Ballarat diocese, Opus Dei would have failed in its objective, so it wouldn’t make sense to seek incardination in the prelature.