Businessmen's Retreat - 2001
September 21-23, 2001
Sponsored by Manhattan College

Conducted at the Passionist Spiritual Center
5801 Palisade Avenue, Riverdale, NY, 10471, Phone 718-549-6500

Retreat Links: [ Outline | Msgr Jim | Rev Rob | BillT | Fr Paul | JackK ]

Visual Tour

Conference: "The Spirituality of Ordinariness"

Speaker - Jack Kakolewski

Jack is a licensed Psychotherapist with offices in Ridgewood and Teaneck, N.J. and has practiced for over 20 years.  Jack has been a frequent speaker at many men's groups and was the featured speaker at our first Manhattan Reality Retreat in 1992.  He has degrees from Seton Hall and Catholic University and received his Masters in Counseling Psychology from Iona University.  In addition, Jack has a Post-Graduate Certificate in Marriage and Family Counseling from Seton Hall.

Outline of Talk

  1. Introduction
    1. When I started preparing my presentation, I was concerned about your needs under the theme of humility.  But the events of Sept. 11 caused me to go back and rethink my presentation.  (Played the Bette Midler song, "From a Distance".)
    2. Prayer: Lord God, watch over us; watch over those who have suffered; watch over this earth, your Garden of Eden; . . .
    3. Autumn is a beautiful time of year.  The leaves will change color and display God's glory in this Garden of Eden.
    4. Today, this weekend, God has asked you, "Where are you?"  How shall we answer?  We realize, as we see the leaves turn, that things change, that we don't have control as we used to think.  We die, we rise; it's the Paschal mystery.
    5. In that dying and rising process, God is watching us.  During this process, Sept. 11 happened.
  2. Ordinariness
    1. For most of us, that day began ordinarily; it was a warm, beautiful day; we were talking about the children going back to school, about the pennant races, etc.
    2. But that day brought a profound moment, one that changed us all.  We're all traumatized by what happened, more than we realize.  Some lost loved ones; some worked at the World Trade Center (WTC) and escaped; all of us who watched at a distance were dazed, frightened, anxious, angry, etc.  I have heard from my patients of their anger and sadness.
    3. In our pain and confusion, we have turned to our God, even though many of us asked, "Where is God, that He should have allowed this to happen?"
    4. As in the song, we seem to feel God at a distance, as someone who kept at a distance while all this tragedy happened.  When we ask, we often hear silence.
  3. The Distance of God
    1. There is a distance to God.
    2. My patients tell me, "My personal problems seem small compared to those bereaved by the WTC attack."  But our personal problems are all of our problems.  And they have not gone away.
    3. St. John of the Cross called it the dark night of the soul.  We hear silence; we feel distance.
    4. When the vision fades, the people perish.  Our lives go out of focus.  We begin to depend on substitutes for God.  It's Biblical: Moses and the Jews in the desert of the Exodus; the people lost faith and began to worship false gods.
    5. Yet we are in the palm of God's hand because we are loved.
  4. Suffering
    1. The story of the two men on their way to Emmaus: They thought that Jesus's death was a let-down; He had abandoned them.  But then along came Jesus, who admonished them and taught them about suffering and what we can learn from it.
    2. We can learn from this suffering how to live our lives today.
    3. I can remember the day Kennedy was shot, although it was years ago.  I can remember my son's birth; he asks be to describe it to him (he came out and immediately peed on the wall).
  5. Faith
    1. Our view of Sept. 11 must be faith-based.  The tragedy was the experience of evil people; it was not God's punishment.
    2. In this tragedy, we must find the voice of God; what is He trying to teach us?  Many people feel out of control.  In this time of confusion and imbalance, faith must have its life.
    3. But God is not a panacea here; there's a hiddeness to God.  He must be approached through a faith that lives.
  6. What Can We Learn from Suffering?
    1. What can we learn now in our suffering?  How can it transform us?  The Paschal mystery: Jesus's trial and death brought it home to us.
    2. Consider the word ponder.  We must ponder.  Ponder Mary, our Mother.  She took Her early, mysterious pregnancy and pondered it in Her heart, as She did later at Her Son's cruel death.
    3. We've become more childlike.  A friend with whom I watched TV on Sept. 11 broke down crying.  This, although as men we've been taught to be self-contained and invincible.
    4. At the seashore, my young daughter was about to get hit by a wave; she instinctively reached out for me.  I grabbed her hand; so she knew I was there as the wave hit her.
    5. We need to reach up and trust.  In this tragedy, we need to know that He is with us; that's what faith is.
    6. In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God.
    7. Do I trust God?  Do I want to know Him?  Or do I want to remain just a cultural Christian?  If we're not curious about our inner selves, how do we discover faith, how to live, how to forgive?
    8. In prayer we learn; we gather the strength to deal with these tragedies.
  7. Things That Really Matter
    1. St. Paul: Cherish the things that really matter.  Our prayers can show us what's important.
    2. People who suffered the terrorist attack, when they got out of the buildings, wanted only to go home to their families.  They were focused on what's important.
    3. The tragedy has pulled this country together.
    4. Overall, however, I see an emptiness among us.  People avoid relationships, even with their spouses.  They substitute drugs, money-making, etc.  Yet what matters most in this world is our relationships, our love for one another.  When a man near the WTC remarked on the telephone about the first plane strike, the man on the other end said, "Let's finish this trade first."
    5. Are we too important to take time away from the TV ballgame to hug and affirm and encourage our kids?  Some of the WTC victims' last contacts with their spouses were arguments; they had no chance to reconcile.
    6. Buddhism: the doctrine of impermanence; nothing lasts forever.
    7. Love one another.  Cardinal Newman: we fail when we do not share the secrets of our hearts with one another.
    8. Where are your wounds?  Psychotherapy tries to instill in people the hope that their relationships, their lives at home, can become better.
    9. We need to trust that we can change.  We must trust mindfully the inner presence of God, who loves us inside in our pain.
    10. An illustration.  A speaker was giving a presentation to some young professionals.
      • He took out a big jar, put in some big rocks up to the top, asked, "Is the jar full?"  The audience said yes.
      • He did the same with some gravel.  The audience, beginning to catch on, said probably not.
      • He added sand up to the top.  The audience said it was probably still not full.
      • He added water to the top.  Now the jar was full.
      • He asked what the class's conclusion was.
      • One wag said it meant that there's always room in your schedule for one more thing to do.  
      • In actuality, the speaker told them that the conclusion was the following: If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all.
      • So figure out what's important to you, what the big rocks are in your life.
                Then put them in your life first.
  8. Q&A (answers only)
    1. Today, we need to grieve, although we don't know how long.
    2. My way to reach out is to be there for my patients (who usually want to talk about their traumas).
    3. Take back your marriages.  It's a commitment to the relationship, as an entity in itself.  Put the marriage in the foreground.
    4. The WTC tragedy is a horrible reminder of the presence of evil in the world.  It should remind us of our task to seek out the evil in our own lives, in our work places, etc.
    5. My middle son has a learning disability.  H told us he did not want to go to college.  My wife and I were disappointed and embarrassed.  But my son has since studied to become a paramedic and has become a volunteer fireman.  And he has applied to become a full-time fireman.  He volunteered to help out at the WTC.  The high regard that the fireman have received the past two weeks has made me realize that my earlier disappointment was improper.  I am as proud of my son as I possibly could be.

(The notes of this outline were taken by David G. Price.  They were wordprocessed by Patrick Lyons.
These notes may not be reproduced without the written permission of the presenter.

This page was last edited on December 30, 2001 by Patrick Lyons.)