The Hamilton parish is free of me this weekend. I’m accompanying some of our youth group leaders on a spiritual retreat in Harrietville. The retreat venue, I’m told, is the Feathertop Chalet in Harrietville. How cool does that sound? When I hear “chalet,” I picture something like this:

Pictured: what I imagine to be a typical mountain chalet!

But maybe my expectations have been heightened since my own retreat in September. That was at the Kenthurst Study Centre near Sydney, which one blogger has called, “Australia’s answer to the Vatican.” I’m not sure about that, but Kenthurst sure is nice:

Pictured: Pope Benedict offering Mass in Kenthurst’s beautiful chapel

A bush setting, a beautiful Marian shrine, high ceilings, open fire places and a swimming pool. Not quite a chalet, but something to write home about, and a place which might have skewed my expectations of retreat centres.

But no . . . my online investigation suggests Feathertop Chalet really is up there with Kenthurst and the chalet pictured. Actually, maybe Feathertop is even better. Only one of the three has its own mini-golf course:

Not pictured: Kenthurst Study Centre and/or my imagined chalet!

But of course, we’re not really going to this retreat to rate the accommodation. I hope and pray the retreat is a time of grace and renewal for my young parishioners, and the other retreatants.

Here’s Fr Rob — a good friend and erstwhile classmate — to explain the weekend:

I think there’s about one hundred young people going. Spare them a prayer!