July reflection from Steven Ham
I’m honored to be able to write in memory and honor of Fr Chet during the month of the first anniversary of his passing on July 31, 2014. Fr Chet, Saint Chet as I intend to refer to him, totally changed the trajectory of my life by helping me grow spiritually toward a new person in Christ. I’m writing from The Jesuit Center in Wernersville, PA, where I am completing my first retreat since 2011 (with Saint Chet). I hope you will be able to see Saint Chet’s legacy in the this narrative. I decided some months ago to schedule a retreat. I did an online search and settled on this location because I was attracted to St Ignatius (without knowing why). As I packed for the retreat, I threw numerous books into my bag including Prayer and Temperament. Upon my arrival here, I decided I wanted to try to do the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius by compressing the normal 30 day retreat into 8 days. About the third day into the retreat I was restless and decided to pull out another book and instinctively reached for Prayer and Temperament. I opened it and started reading about my personality type, ISTJ. The first thing that jumped out at me was Saint Chet’s (and Marie’s) comment that “Since St Ignatius was an ISTJ, it would seem the Spiritual Exercises should be appropriate and appealing to the ISTJ temperament.” This was an AHA! moment! My spiritual director whom I met with daily here had mentioned on day two that I needed to do a better job of “listening to God”. I further read in Saint Chet’s book that “there is a great need for the ISTJ to learn the technique and develop the “art of listening”. AHA! Further, “a directed retreat using the Spiritual Exercises might be very helpful as a means to learn and develop this practice of listening to God”. AHA! Also, “Ignatian Prayer best suits the SJ temperament.” The AHAs! kept coming!
So, Saint Chet and Marie taught me 20 years ago that I am an ISTJ through SDI; it was my first realization of my personality type (at age 48). He provided spiritual direction for Carol and me until he could no longer do so. He led us on his directed retreats for many years and helped us to flourish spiritually. And then he reconnects with me a few days ago through his book, his teachings, and my spiritual awareness to lead me to this time & place to help me realize that the next frontier of my spiritual journey will involve better “listening” and he gave me the means to do so through the Spiritual Exercises.
It goes on! I then took his book to the next morning spiritual direction session and my SD said, “oh, I know about that book!”, and I offered to send him a copy for his use with future directees for which he was enthusiastic. A day later I met with the Director of the Center to offer some ideas on a different retreat format that might be of interest. I had written an outline of Saint Chet’s directed retreats and we discussed that; how it built community and led to many return visits by the retreatants. She, also, was aware of Saint Chet’s book and wanted to reconnect with it, and indicated that her staff will evaluate Saint Chet’s retreat format for possible use.
Thank you, Saint Chet, and Marie, for being present to all of us and leaving a lasting impact through your ministry, books, your audio recordings, SDI, and most of all your love that continues to resonate with people all over the world in so many ways. Know that we miss you, but that you continue to affect our lives in profound ways.
Monsignor Chester Michael (1916-2014) RIP
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) RSV
(favorite Bible quote of Fr. Chet’s)
It is with great sadness that we report that Monsignor Chester Michael peacefully passed away on Thursday at 3pm on July 31, 2014 at age 97 while in hospice care. Rev. Msgr. Chester P. Michael, a retired priest of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, was born in Berkeley Springs, WV, in 1916, ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in 1942, and was a faithful priest of the Diocese for 72 years. Please remember Msgr. Michael and his family in your prayers.
Remembering Monsignor Chester Michael (click for more stories and photos)