Saturday, September 02, 2006

Society of St. Polycarp Retreat

The Society of St. Polycarp had its first retreat this past week. The SSP is a religious Society for traditionalist Lutheran pastors and laymen.

As time came for our planned retreat at Camp Wartburg near St. Louis, a lot of guys had to back out due to family and church emergencies. In fact, I was nearly unable to attend due to the risk of Hurricane Ernesto entering the Gulf of Mexico.

With our dwindling numbers, it made sense to either postpone, or simply move the retreat to the rectory of the Rev. Dave Juhl at Trinity Lutheran Church in Iuka, Illinois.

I'm sure glad we opted for the latter! On very short notice, Father David and his wife Becky (and 2-year old daughter Caty) were most gracious hosts, offering wonderful hospitality: comfortable lodging, excellent food, fine company, and the opportunity for the brethren to carry out Society business and pray together. In addition to Fr. Juhl and myself, Br. Joe Greene and Br. Latif Gaba were also in attendance. Br. Joe brought along organic delectables from his farm, and Br. Latif put together the comprehensive prayer book for our worship (Latif's wife Ruth also brought along her home-made Albanian baklava and chocolate-chip bars (a staple of prairie Lutheranism).

We had the opportunity to pray several of the traditional monastic prayer hours together, including Matins, Lauds, Sext, Vespers, and Compline. We concluded with Mass on Thursday, followed by the traditional Itinerarium prayer. There is simply no substitute for traditional prayer, rooted in the Word of God (especially the Psalms), along with ancient hymns of the Church, including some of the prayers in Latin.

A return to traditional doctrine and forms of worship is the only antidote to the encroachment of the modern and postmodern heresies into the life of the Church. It's high time the Church assert herself and cease and desist bowing and scraping before the false god of Change and dabbling in the Cult of Popularity. The Society of St. Polycarp is certainly a part of that movement - especially among American confessors of Augsburg.

In addition to prayer, we took time to discuss matters of organization for our Society and strategies for the future. We also had discussion about Canadian author Michael O'Brien's apocalyptic novel Father Elijah (which many of us in the SSP have been reading) as well as the consideration of a theological exchange between Dr. Stephenson (of the Lutheran Church - Canada) and Dr. Brug (of the Wisconsin Synod) regarding the theology of the Office of the Holy Ministry.

As my wife and son were present, as were Pr. Juhl's wife and daughter and Br. Latif's wife Ruth, the retreat was largely a family event with lots of time built in to eat together, socialize, and play with the children outside. We enjoyed everything from Italian venison and farm-fresh chicken and eggs to crawfish etoufee and beignets - in addition to "Lutheran beverages." The brethren attended Trinity Lutheran's Wednesday Bible class, and I was able to make a presentation of the work of New Orleans pastors in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Here are some pictures from the retreat, as well as the text of Fr. Juhl's sermon at the Mass of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (which we transferred to Thursday). I served as celebrant, and Becky Juhl was the organist.

Anyone interested in the SSP can read the Rule of the Society at

We're already planning next year's retreat, and we are looking forward to a more formal setting with a larger number of brethren taking part.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam!

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