A spiritual journey with the bishop

Amidst a world often bustling with distractions and anxieties, the Church of St Anthony transformed into a haven of spiritual renewal during the “Journey with Bishop” event held from June 13 to 15.

Jul 05, 2024

Bishop Bernard Paul conducted a three-day retreat at the Church of St Anthony, June 13 to 15.

CHA’AH, Johor:
Amidst a world often bustling with distractions and anxieties, the Church of St Anthony transformed into a haven of spiritual renewal during the “Journey with Bishop” event held from June 13 to 15. Led by Bishop Bernard Paul, this three-day retreat prepared attendees for the Feast Day of St Anthony, observed on June 16.

Integral to the parish feast day week, the retreat centred on themes of Review, Repent, and Renew, offering participants an opportunity to deepen their faith and experience a spiritual awakening.

The festivities commenced on June 11 with a ceremonial raising of the flag and prayers to St Anthony, followed by Mass. The atmosphere of reverence continued on June 12 with a solemn Mass and Eucharistic Adoration led by Fr Adrian Francis, fostering a reflective ambiance in anticipation of the upcoming spiritual retreat.

On June 13, the opening day of the retreat, Bishop Bernard Paul guided participants in a comprehensive review of their faith journey, urging them to consider faith as a dynamic force that integrates head, heart, spirit, and body. He described faith as a dynamic force that animates every aspect of life, beyond mere beliefs. Participants were prompted to reflect on how their faith shapes their thoughts, emotions, actions, and spiritual well-being. The bishop emphasised the responsibility of reflecting God’s image by bearing fruit in their lives, fostering personal growth and benefiting their community. Additionally, he reaffirmed the role of priests, prophets, and shepherds entrusted to all baptised individuals, urging them to lead, teach, and care for others as part of their sacred duty.

The following day, the focus of the retreat shifted to Repentance. Bishop Bernard used the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11) as a cornerstone for exploring themes of repentance and reconciliation. Activities for the day included a symbolic penitential walk, where participants moved from the altar to the church entrance, symbolising a journey back to God’s embrace. They engaged in acts of purification by washing their feet, hands, and faces, symbolically cleansing their souls. Each participant also offered incense, symbolising prayers and repentance. This immersive experience provided a tangible opportunity to confront and release sins, fostering a renewed sense of humility and openness to God's mercy.

On the third day of the retreat, the theme of Renewal took centre stage. Drawing inspiration from Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones, Bishop Bernard emphasised the transformative power of the Holy Spirit to rejuvenate and inspire. He reminded participants of their mission to love and serve, likening it to the responsibility of feeding Jesus’ sheep. The day culminated in a profound meditation on the Eucharist, focusing on Jesus’ actions of taking, blessing, breaking, and giving the bread, symbolising spiritual renewal through the Holy Spirit.

The retreat concluded with a renewal of baptismal vows, with Bishop Bernard blessing the parishioners with holy water and anointing them with Holy Chrism, symbolising the reaffirmation of their faith.

The following day, the feast day Mass was attended by over 160 people, with Bishop Bernard emphasising how God works differently in each person’s life. Fr Adrian Francis blessed the St Anthony’s Bread which was distributed after Mass.

The day also honoured Father’s Day, with Fr Paul Wong blessing the fathers with holy water. The celebrations which drew pilgrims from Kuala Lumpur, Segamat, Labis, Batu Pahat, Kluang, Kulai, Johor Bahru, and Singapore concluded with a dinner.

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