Retreat Week: A poem and pictures from Holy Cross House

I preached a Lenten retreat at Holy Cross House last week. Three of my former pastors now live in our health care facility. Here are pictures of two of them, Fr. Bill and Fr. Clem. Also, below is a poem from my experiences last week. 


Fr. Bill Neidhart, CSC and I served at Saint Francis Xavier Parish in Burbank, California




Fr. LeRoy Clementich, CSC and I served at Sacred Heart Church (Tri-Community) in 1984.


Retreat Week

 A tiny American tree sparrow outside my window

Perched in a thick shrub

Protected its wings from the heavy snow

During the wintry week


On the inside of Holy Cross House

The elderly men in wheelchairs or leaning on canes

Built a fort of hope

Struggled to pray with stiff fingers


We endeared ourselves to the Cross of Jesus

Postponing despair for another day


We prayed into Mary’s sorrows from our earthly experience

Whittling new insights from strokes or bitterness


We told family stories and laughed at jokes one more time

Opening up a memory album

Even celebrating our first saint

Andre Bessette

Meeting him at the door of our fragile hearts

Where healing miracles still live


We built a fire on the altar where bread and wine

Sparked the Real Presence of Jesus and

The priests held up their hands to warm themselves


Against the clipped-wing regrets–

Moving into this common home

From various countries


In these wintery and blustery days

Just before an eternal spring



– Ronald Raab, CSC





4 thoughts on “Retreat Week: A poem and pictures from Holy Cross House

  1. Fr. Ron,

    A beautiful poem about an even more beautiful retreat, I am sure. I’m reading about making old age a retreat and this entry by you simply makes it more comprehensible via the two powerful minds of renunciation and compassion. Thank you.

    Mike from Centennial, CO

  2. Father,

    What a beautiful poem of remembrances about your time at the Holy Cross House for the retreat. I’m sure all of the participants were truly touched and blessed by your loving tenderness and willingness to interact with them. God bless you for your compassion, and God bless them for long lives in service to God and His flock – us! Thank you.

    Fran Woolsey

  3. Thanks, Fr. Ron, each of these stanzas reads almost like a haiku! What a beautiful way to wrap both memories of ministry together with soon to be expectations of heavenly joy. I love that image of the little sparrow perched on a snow filled bough, awaiting the spring of Christ’s rising. And the “Elderly men in wheelchairs or leaning on canes / build a fort of hope”. Your artistic training and practice has given you such poetic vision. I am sure that the Holy Cross House community was warmed and encouraged by your presence!

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