St. Paul uses the term in his Second Letter to the Corinthians:
Christ shone in our hearts . . . We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. 2 Corinthians, 4:6-7
The Church has traditionally interpreted “this treasure” to mean the ministry. Those who work in ministry are “earthen vessels,” ready to be filled in their hearts and to fill the hearts of other people.
Earthen Vessels is a peer ministry. We minister to you – the people who serve in the Church. Earthen Vessels offers separate programs for a variety of groups who serve in the Church: For priests, married couples, and diaconate couples.
The best way we know to minister to others is to ask Jesus to guide the process. For this reason, Jesus is at the center of an Earthen Vessels experience.
As human beings we are “earthen vessels,” fragile yet beautiful. In order to serve well, we need to do as Jesus instructed his disciples: “Come away and rest for a while.” Earthen Vessels benefits people who serve in ministry by providing a structured renewal experience. These experiences are held in a setting which is conducive to spiritual relaxation as well as to spiritual growth.
A typical retreat is usually conducted by 1 person or a team on a theological topic with few opportunities for interaction or for integration by the participants.
In an Earthen Vessels retreat there are usually 3 presenters, each of whom tells a story from their Paschal journey which is connected with a parallel moment in the life of Jesus. Participants are encouraged to interact and are presented with a proven way to interact fruitfully. These activities help each participant to explore their own life story, by seeing in his/her own life the how Jesus is present, through their own Paschal journey experience.
The center of an Earthen Vessels experience is finding Jesus through one’s own life story. An Earthen Vessels experience places particular emphasis on helping participants to find Jesus through their own life story in ministry. Each Earthen Vessels experience follows the structure of the Paschal Mystery, of Jesus’ experience of passion, death, and resurrection. Therefore, the beginning and ending topics are the same regardless of the audience. The experience begins with Palm Sunday events and ends with Pentecost events. Also, the central focus is the same the same regardless of the audience – participants put their principal emphasis on their experiences of Good Friday to Easter events in their life. For Married Couples the program is usually conducted over a weekend. For diaconate couple the program can be conducted on two consecutive days during a week or it can be conducted over a weekend, depending on the tradition of the diocese. For priests the program is more-detailed and is therefore presented over 5 days, usually during mid-week, because most priests have pastoral assignments on weekends.
Earthen Vessels is an intense spiritual experience for the renewal of those who serve the Church in ministry. It is a walk with Jesus through the Paschal Mystery, to help us understand our own Paschal journey. The emphasis of an Earthen Vessels experience is on how our own journey in Church ministry parallels Jesus’ story from Palm Sunday through Pentecost. Part of the experience helps participants get in touch with moments of triumph in ministry and of intimacy with Jesus. Another part of the experience focuses on healing the hurts we experience in ministry. An Earthen Vessels experience also helps participants to clarify their vision of their future in ministry and in their personal walk with Jesus.
People who have attended Earthen Vessels experiences have found prayerful ways to deepen their relationships with those whom they serve, with their fellow ministers, and with God.
Fr. Tom Griffith, SVD
Miramar Retreat Center
P.O. Box M (121 Parks Street)
Duxbury, Massachusetts 02331-0614
Office: 781-585-2460, ext. 316
Br. Cyril Drnjevic, OSB
Mount Angel Abbey
1 Abbey Drive
Saint Benedict, Oregon 97373
Earthen Vessels Renewal
© Copyright 2011 Earthen Vessels Renewal Ministry