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A Reflection on the FIRE 2023 Retreat and My Awareness of God's World - by Mike Czinege

Have you noticed a decline in the belief in God? A decline in the reliance on God? A decline in the wonder of God? Is it a recent phenomenon? Has it happened over the last few years or the last decade or maybe the last few centuries? I spent a weekend at Prairie Star ranch with 100 other men at the F.I.R.E. retreat to challenge each other and deepen our faith. While we were outside Saturday evening under the stars talking, and receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation, we pondered these and other questions. As I sat under the stars around the bonfire, I was in awe of the vastness of the universe and I felt God’s presence. I knew then why we were falling away from Him. We have begun to immerse ourselves in things of man’s creation and not of God’s creation.

Throughout history man has been in wonder of the universe. The beauty of the night sky, the alignment of the stars, the movement of the planets, the height of mountains, the power of the wind, and the might of the oceans. Until the last few centuries, people spent most of their time outdoors working in nature, being exposed to the elements, and frequently sleeping under the stars. It’s almost impossible to live in nature every day, year after year, and not be in awe at the size and magnitude of the universe and begin to ask some fundamental questions. Is there a higher power than me? Was there a creator of the universe. Is there a God? How and why am I here?

Religion helped answer those questions and provide a framework for man to understand his own nature. The Greeks studied the universe and created a mythology with their own gods. Christianity gave man a connection with a loving God that wanted to share His goodness and majesty. For centuries man lived immersed in God’s creations and exposed to them daily. It was natural for man to be in awe of God as he experienced His creations. Christianity grew steadily through history as the world received the word of redemption and man lived exposed to God through nature.

Villages, towns, and countries dedicated to Christianity were formed and grew throughout the middle ages. Churches and cathedrals were the center of society and integral to community life. God was at the center of man’s life and man lived in awe of God in His world.

Man developed technology in the 1900’s to make life more comfortable. With better housing, central heating and air conditioning, automobiles, and air travel he began to distance himself from nature. Technological advancement continued into man’s personal space with the internet, mobile phones, and social media. The more time man spent with his own technology, the more he was secluded from the magnificence of nature. He became a slave to his own creations and had little time exposed to God’s creations. Man turned inward and away from God.

Fewer and fewer people attend church. Even more claim not to have a religious affiliation. Man has substituted time with God and His creations to time with man’s own creations, his technology. As we’ve become distanced from things of God we’ve left less space for God.

Without exposure to God’s physical world on a regular basis, we allowed God to become an intellectual experience that can be more easily ignored or debated. We will not return to the days of old, living and being exposed to the stars and the rest of nature. Technology will continue to advance. We will find more and more ways to isolate ourselves from God. We need to learn to strengthen our relationship with God in this new world. We need to learn to disciple to our family, neighbors, and strangers.

Go outside during the day. Watch the clouds, study the trees, and take a walk. Go out at night and follow the stars. Be amazed at God’s universe. Renew and be in awe of God’s creations. Encourage others to do the same, and be with them during their experience. Take an outdoor retreat with other brothers and deepen your faith.

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