Mountain Men's Respite Retreat

On the weekend of October 21-23, 2022, ten guys from across the diocese came together in the remote Adirondack wilderness at Cedar River Campsite to listen for God’s still, soft voice amidst the chaos of today’s world. The attendees ranged in age from 16 to 69, and included a catechumen, some newcomers to the Faith, a few old-comers, and a seminarian. They came from all over the state, with the largest contingency hailing from Rochester, NY. Their fearless leader was Fr. Martin Kraus (Holy Trinity Church, East Meadow, NY)— a mix of MacGyver, Chuck Norris, and Emeril Lagasse — who brought everything from his home-built, portable altar setup to sausage patties. It was a beautiful weekend of communing with nature, with one another, and with the Lord. New bonds were formed, old bonds were strengthened, and everybody returned home feeling a bit more relaxed and at ease. Hopefully, this “Mountain Men’s Respite,” which was born out of Teen Week at St. Andrew’s Camp, will become an annual event.

For a more detailed peak into the weekend, please see the below personal reflection from one of the retreat participants, as well as the photo album.

Reflection by William Cost...

The 2022 Mountain Men’s Retreat in Indian Lake, NY, was a great success. The weekend provided an opportunity for the men who attended to get closer to God and to make friends for life.

On Friday night, we sang an Akathist. The group was fortunate to have Greg, who was a great choir leader during all of the services. After the Akathist, the group broke for dinner and enjoyed some conversation for the rest of the evening by the campfire. The sky was filled with stars.

In the morning, the group enjoyed a leisurely breakfast by the fire, getting our engines burning for the hike ahead of us. Throwing the football around also helped get the blood pumping. It was frigid in the morning, but by the time we set out on the trail, the sun had been shining for an hour or two, and things were warming up.
It was a beautiful day for a hike. The group started off down the trail enthusiastically. The sound of our voices and the leaves rustling under our feet must have alerted all the animals to our presence. We walked along a babbling brook across a makeshift wooden bridge and took in the shimmering orange and yellow colors.

The hike began to get more difficult, and we took a break, snacking on Steve’s homemade trail bars. We continued up the rocks, which became quite steep at times. Mitch and Morgan brought up the rear, providing much-needed hiking wisdom and experience to keep us safe.

Finally, we reached the top of the mountain. The view was incredible. Father Martin informed us that we had received a voice message from Archbishop Michael, and we all gathered around him to listen. Archbishop Michael said that this trip was a chance for us to “shut down” and leave the chaos of our lives behind, if even for a moment. He told the story of Elijah on top of the mountain, hoping to hear the voice of God. The wind came, and the voice of God was not in it, and an earthquake came, but the voice of God was not in it. Then there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. Rather, the voice of God came in a still, soft voice. (1 Kings 19:11) It was a poetic moment when, as Archbishop Michael mentioned the wind, we all heard a wind gently come through the trees. Archbishop Michael finished by emphasizing God’s love for us, which, to him, was perhaps best shown through His words to Isaiah: “Behold, I have carved you in the palm of my hand.”

The group returned to camp feeling satisfied. Everyone tried their hand at chopping wood, including Keith and Will (the “city boys”), who took a couple of good whacks before acknowledging that Matt was best equipped for the job. The wood was wet, and the fire had a tough time getting going, but with a little extra work, it eventually came to life. Gabe was our Energizer Bunny, providing funny stories and comments that cheered us up and made us forget the cold.

We held vespers as night fell, thanks to Richard and Father Martin’s hard work assembling the oblation table. After the service, we again sat around the campfire and enjoyed a well-earned dinner.

We held liturgy the next morning. The Gospel reading was from the book of Luke, telling how Jesus healed one of the centurion’s servants. Father Martin told a story touching on the importance of showing love and humility toward others in need.

When it was time to return to civilization, we shared some parting words with each other, gave one another a hug, and set off down the road we had come in on a few nights before. Nothing forges friendships like the challenge of braving the outdoors together. As Archbishop Michael had reminded us, the voice of God came to Elijah in a soft, still voice. I think we all heard a little of that voice this weekend.

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