Worth Revisiting:When Words Fail

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” Thomas Merton

In sitting down this morning to write about this, I hesitated. Such a difficult topic, and yet so needed. On more occasions than I could have thought possible, I have encountered grief. Not only though my own experience but through those expressing abandonment in their grief, and confusion on the part of those who love them. While not professing to have a perfect answer, I humbly offer the following as spiritual guidelines in beginning the journey.

  1. Speak-but speak less. Do not underestimate the gift and consolation of listening. Your presence is still needed amidst the changes in the life of the one who mourns, though perhaps in a different way. Before speaking, pause, and allow the other the space to lead the conversation. In your listening, inwardly invite the Holy Spirit into the moment to guide the direction and breadth of discussion.

“Speak only if it improves the silence” Mahatma Gandhi

There are times when silence can speak volumes, and others where we are called to do more than talk but are called into the do-ing of life. When my brother, having committed suicide, left this world my own mother was left initially in a world of silence. The suddenness of his passing left her,for a short time, unable to cope with the everyday essentials of sleeping, eating and caring for herself. This I realized was something that I was being asked right then and there to take to doing. The roles had in one swift moment been reversed. For the many countless nights she had taken care of me, I felt privileged to return in kind, albeit in some small way. With a toddler in tow, I cleaned, cooked and took care of everything I could put my hands and feet to. Then I would sit beside her and let my son do his magic. Reaching up, smiling and looking into the eyes of his grandma he connected, drawing her out of herself and into the beauty of the life before her. Though slowly she came out of shell shock, it would really be months before she could truly speak to any of the pain that she had felt. This time of silence to the experience of grief was her a much needed time of healing and reflection, one that could not be rushed or anticipated.

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.” Washington Irving

  2.  There is no perfect response- Perhaps the most common question that continually comes forward from those seeking to offer consolation is simply, “What do I say?” There is an honest seeking to meet the pain and loss that our loved ones are facing with some sage advice or uplifting heartfelt message to ease their suffering. And yet, our words often fall short of touching the profound pain in grief of the situation. The moment we release ourselves from the responsibility of saying just the right thing, we can embrace the other with authenticity. That is not to say, however, we should speak every word that comes to the forefront of our thoughts. Strive to avoid platitudes and clichés like, “Time heals all wounds”, “Your loved one is in a better place”, “God wanted him/her with him” or “I know how you feel”. To this day, three simple words seem to be a much needed balm when spoken truly from the heart..

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do. It is to God Almighty – how much we do it does not matter, because He is infinite, but how much love we put in that action. How much we do to Him in the person that we are serving.                                                Mother Teresa

3. Love –but love more. The picture of someone that is deeply immersed in the grieving process isn’t a pretty one. It is messy, challenging, and calls forth from those that love them a willingness to get dirty in the process. It requires patience and understanding holding each death and each one who grieves in the uniqueness of the moment. Comparisons or preconceived notions of recovery fail to take this into consideration. So, for all those times when our desire to console is not well received or our small act of kindness feels unappreciated…love. When they reach for support from others, or seem to have no need for support from anyone…love. When we cannot understand what is holding them back , hold on to hope and…love.

Walking with someone in their brokenness is to recognize our own brokenness too. And in helping them to find their way, we discover both community and communion in the One who brings wholeness, love, peace, and joy in the journey.

Peace,

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Mercy Unwrapped with Kristine Franklin

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Well the on air tables were turned recently, and I was blessed to be interviewed by Kristine Franklin as part of her series Mercy Unwrapped. As a wife, mother, grandma, radio host, a writer, and a speaker herself Kristine brings a lifetime of faith experience. But in her own words she is “most importantly, a child of Jesus Christ, living and loving, growing and becoming who God intends her to be, and happy in her spiritual home, the Catholic Church.”

Thus it was such a pleasure to have this on air conversation about the presence and experience of God’s mercy in our lives. Take time today to discover mercy in your own life and in those you encounter-God’s love is so complete!

 

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Contemporary Christian Music

For many years, I have followed the Contemporary Christian music scene.  Going beyond the artists themselves the message of the music gives true praise to the one true Artist, our heavenly Father- while speaking quite profoundly to God at work within each one of us. Not a faith removed from the world, it is a faith that finds us in our brokenness, enables us to meet the struggles,and celebrates the victory won in Christ. Thursday’s concert with Tenth Avenue North, Sidewalk Prophets and Dan Bremnes at Plymouth Memorial Hall would not disappoint!

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Arriving early with press pass in hand, so to speak, I made my way onto the floor and delightfully bumped into Dan Bremnes! Completely humble and unassuming, Dan who was opening that night, called out “Hey there, how are you?” I have to admit I was just a bit caught off guard at first as to why he was not backstage, but oh so thankful for this opportunity to speak with him. So easy was the conversation, that we fell into an faith-filled back and forth exchange of inspiration for songs, our own faith journeys and the importance of events like the Holy Ground Tour.

(Paraphrasing here)

ER: Where do you find inspiration when writing songs- through events in your own life or through those you encounter?

DB: “Really, it is a well that I draw from.. Important to be filled and then the writing overflows”

ER: What is important for you to keep in mind in your relationship with our Heavenly Father when touring?

DM: ‘To be grounded in the word of God. Spending time with scripture, and in prayer allows for that needed time to connect.’

ER: I’ve found that sometimes I run across a particular passage, and wonder why that scripture was intended to be read that day and then God reveals it it’s importance..

DB: ‘So true, for we know that “there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known..” ‘ (Luke 8:17)

Later at the VIP “Meet and Greet” with Tenth Avenue North, I posed a similar question to lead singer Mike Donehey..

ER: We are all so busy in our lives today.. how do you connect with God in midst of the busyness of touring?

MD: “Oh that’s easy! See there is silence and solitude when touring..it’s when I come home to my three kids that it is more difficult!”      (Truth!)

The concert itself was from beginning to end a whole sharing of self to all those who had gathered. With humor, sincerity and witness there was purpose in conveying a passion for the faith and a beautiful responsibility to live that faith out loud in the world around us today.

Peace,

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Why I didn’t want to write..but needed to.

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Today, the advice of a good friend of mine Sr. Marie Paul, a Pauline sister by vocation, echoed in my mind. “If you find yourself at a loss of what to write or how to write what you feel you need to, just write about why you cannot write.” Why? First, it gets the flow going but also there may be something there worth exploring-the reason behind why you are feeling blocked or resistant. Doing this has helped me to see more clearly what it is that is holding me back and captive.

And so I begin..no longer a slave to fear but recognizing that it is with God , with his strength and desire that I can do all things. It isn’t that I am fearful of writing, or surrendering my inmost thoughts and feelings, but that the task of writing with and for a purpose takes both time and energy. Two things that can far too often seem in short supply. For, introspectively I understand my own tendency to give fully of myself to whatever I commit to. Not treading in the shallow, I long to see things to completion and rest only when I feel I have given my all. Yet, in my desire to serve, have I neglected my own cup that longs to be filled? Is this why I am clinging to down time, and stingy when it comes to writing lately?

And still I know that spiritually that tending to the seed of a budding question, or emerging prayer through writing is more than a facet of self expression. The fruit of which has, for me, been  a window of clarification and a path of discernment. It is an opening of mind and heart to the Spirit, a discovery of areas of needed improvement,  an acceptance of mercy and a recognition that I am loved. Even still it can be a means to encourage others in their walk of faith too, who may wonder if they are alone. In need of a Savior? Wonderful, there is much companionship in the journey!  However, for this to be possible we must be authentic-sharing equally of the challenges and successes, of the sorrows and joys and of a brokenness that is only made complete through Christ.

So, it is then that I am called to write. Hanging by a thread I cannot see the entire tapestry that God weaves. Perspective. Writing spiritually becomes a way to better see the gifts that we have and understand the why behind what we are to do. Up, down, in and out his hand guides my heart towards his purpose. With each word written and each pause placed -there is a conversation between my heart and God. A seeking and a finding, and a renewed desire to stay near when I once again have strayed. “There you are!”, I say. “I am where I have always been, right beside you.” He says.

While I initially had little inclination to write today, God knew that it was exactly what was needed. Have you considered writing as a way to move your heart, or as a means of discernment? What is holding you captive today?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Joy

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Joy is such a desired virtue and yet so often we settle for poor substitutes or temporary glimpses of happiness. Where is joy to be found and what is required of us? Let’s take a walk with the saints and soon-to-be saints today..

The following are my top 15 quotes (in no particular order) on joy.

  1. Joy does not simply happen to us-we have to choose joy and keep choosing it everyday. Henri J. M.Nouwen
  2. ” Let us aim for joy, rather than respectability. Let us make fools of ourselves from time to time, and thus see ourselves, for a moment, as the all-wise God sees us.” — St. Philip Neri
  3. Peace begins with a smile—smile five times a day at someone you don’t really want to smile at all—do it for peace. So let us radiate peace…and extinguish in the world and in the hearts of all men all hatred and love for power. — St.Teresa of Calcutta
  4. “And here the first word that I wish to say to you: joy! Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but of having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst.”― Pope FrancisThe Church of Mercy
  5. Be humble, be simple-bring joy to others.― St. Madeline Sophie Barat
  6. Joy is very infectious; therefore, be always full of joy..it is a net of love by which you can catch souls.. ― St.Teresa of Calcutta
  7. The secret to happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that he in his goodness sends to us day after day. ―  Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
  8. Jesus is happy to come with us, as truth is happy to be spoken, as life to be lived, as light to be lit, as love is to be loved, as joy to be given, as peace to be spread.
    Saint Francis of Assisi
  9. “People are made for happiness. Rightly, then, you thirst for happiness. Christ has the answerto this desire of yours. But he asks you to trust him.  Pope John Paul II (World Youth Day 2002)
  10. “Joy is the most infallible sign of
    the presence of God.”
    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
  11. How I long to find the right words to stir up enthusiasm for a new chapter of evangelization full of fervor, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction! Yet I realize that no words of encouragement will be enough unless the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in our hearts. —Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel (261).
  12. Once, when I was praying, Jesus pervaded all my soul, darkness melted away, and I heard these words within me: You are My joy; you are My heart’s delight. From that moment I felt the Most Holy Trinity in my heart; that is to say, within myself. I felt that I was inundated with Divine light. Since then, my soul has been in intimate communion with God, like a child with its beloved Father. Saint Faustina
  13. “Laugh and grow strong” — St. Ignatius of Loyola
  14. “You will know your vocation by the joy that it brings you. You will know. You will know when it’s right.”
    ― Dorothy Day
  15. “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us”-Saint Teresa of Avila

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Be Reconciled


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Not just a prettier or more approachable  version of confession, the act of reconciling is instead, a richer and more complete description of what transpires in this beautiful sacrament. For, reconciliation means“to walk together again”[1] , to reestablish a close relationship in friendship, peace, and love. Confession is just one part of this sacrament replete with mercy, grace and love.  Reconciliation then more fully represents  “what is most important, what Jesus does”. [2]

Growing up protestant, I have heard all of the following questions and consequent arguments against the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation. Undoubtedly even for those having grown up in the faith, there still lies a temptation to rest on these as a means of justifying ourselves in our walk with God. However, there is also a challenge here to really consider the effects of sin, the grace that is present here and the freedom in walking humbly with our God.

1.“My relationship with Jesus is good..I can tell him anything. Why would I put a 3rd person in the middle since Jesus is the one who forgives me?  What this question begs is a heartfelt response. Yes, there is solid scriptural basis but the person asking this is seeking to know the soul benefit in uttering and entrusting their sins in this way.  They understand the need for forgiveness and may have a very good prayer life. Coming into the faith as an young adult this was a hurdle I myself encountered. I prayed often, went to church, read my bible and asked for forgiveness daily. So what does the sacrament of reconciliation really provide that is different?

  • In confessing our sins we give voice to that which we have privately carried and share it with the community in the priest who is also representative of Christ. The weight of our sins that we have carried is lifted, the slate with our sins wiped clean and we are free to begin anew.
  • Likewise, in both our sin and sanctity we are a community and are called to help one another in the journey. Our sin which has hampered and even damaged our relationships is removed and so, as a community we celebrate.
  • Receive peace and comfort by the grace of Christ to go forth to both amend our ways and to strive for greater justice and peace in our families, communities and world around us. Our penance is an essential first step to express our commitment towards this transformation.

2. “So, where is the need for reconciliation in the bible?

  • “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.
  • Parable of the lost sheep- Jesus’ story of the shepherd and the 1 lost sheep among the 99. Jesus leads us to reconciliation with God and others (Matthew 18:12-14)
  • Prodigal Son explores the unconditional love and forgiveness of God, and helps bring this forgiveness into our daily lives (Luke 15:11-32)
  • Great Commandment- Jesus’ teaching about loving God, ourselves, and others (Matthew 22:36-40)

3. “These priests are human too, how can they hear and absolve my sins, aren’t they just as prone to sin?”

  • As Catholics we believe that Jesus intended to give authority to his apostles to guide, teach, forgive and heal the followers of Christ to come. And, that they in turn in succession handed down this authority.

” And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19.

“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:21-23

  • Yet, this question also points to the need for forgiveness for all of us, as a result of our human condition and our inclination to sin. St. John Paul II went to reconciliation frequently as did newly sainted St. Teresa of Calcutta who is noted for going 2-3 times a week for even venial sins.

“It would be an illusion to seek after holiness, according to the vocation one has received from God, without partaking frequently of this sacrament of conversion and reconciliation.  Those who go to Confession frequently, and do so with the desire to make progress, will notice the strides that they make in their spiritual lives.” St. JP II[3]

4. Finally, “Didn’t they just go to reconciliation? So why are they still  (*mean, rude etc.) ?

First obviously this question implies a bit of judgement of others rather than looking at our own walk of faith. Yet, to address the intended issue, does this sacrament have the grace and power to effect true and lasting change? Yes, but again we have a propensity and inclination to sin and our sins are not always exactly the same. Reconciliation is a sacrament that is intended to be received again and again throughout our lives either individually or with the community. So, it does not “end with the words of absolution”, but “in order to achieve it’s purpose it must take root in their whole lives”.[4]

In Reconciliation we are giving the opportunity to experience and celebrate God’s grace, love, mercy and forgiveness in our lives and in community. God isn’t as concerned with the “mistakes” but with repairing the relationship that has suffered.

Think for a moment about your relationship with your best friend.

If you think about your relationship with God, how could this be better? Have you made time for your friendship with God in prayer, answered his calls of love and grace? Have you said sorry when you realize that you have chosen to act unloving?

Remember, our choices not only hurt ourselves but effect our relationship with God, and so many others that we encounter daily. Mercy and forgiveness are waiting-take time today to be reconciled.

Peace,

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[1] McKenna, Meagan. (1997) Rites of Justice. New York. Orbis Books

[2] Richstatter, Thomas. O.F.M, S.T.D. (1990) “Ten Tips for Reconciliation: The Gift of Reconciliation”. Catholic Update. Ohio. Catholic Update.

[3] Pope John Paul II,  Conference of the Apostolic Penitentiary in Rome. March 27, 2004.

[4] Kane, Thomas. Healing God’s People: Theological and Pastoral Approaches.Rite of Penance 7b.

 

 

Worth Revisiting: Finding Patience

Have you met Faith, Hope and Charity in your own life?  Intended for our youngest readers ages 4-8, Finding Patience is a very endearing introduction to these extraordinary gifts from God.  When 8 year old Faith moves with her family to a new home and school, her initial excitement fades as she encounters the daunting challenge of making new friends.  Encouraged to seek patience in prayer, Faith soon finds the love and support of her family and a new puppy to help her persevere. This time also prepares Faith with a true appreciation for what was to come next…a new friend!

As we have come to discover in our own lives, the experience of change and disappointment doesn’t begin when we are old enough to equip ourselves with ready answers or are accustomed to waiting patiently. Much less is patience something acquired once and for all, but as with the other virtues, is a gift that we are to grow in throughout our lives. This as young Faith demonstrates so well requires perseverance.

flower-1-1527160Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  (James 1:2-3)

While so often we struggle to attain even a good measure of patience in our lives, this struggle is incredibly important. For, when tested we do have a choice- to give up to discouragement  or lift up and lean into God. When we actively persevere in trusting God, in his timing and will, it is then we receive that inner strength needed to endure whatever trial we face in our lives.  Only then, do we get to enjoy in the fullness of all that God desires for each of us –true peace and love.

For most of my early life, I believed myself to be patient. Since, accepting the failures and faults of others came quite naturally. What I did not do, however, is practice patience with myself and God’s timing with my own life. Meeting obstacles by seeking to control all conditions involved, I was left with anything but peace. I thought that God would act quickly, and if he hadn’t was depending on me to do my part to move things into place. Then, when things didn’t go as planned, I felt this was only because I had failed to execute the plan perfectly.

Like 8 year old Faith, I didn’t realize right away that waiting, and practicing patience, was an active journey in virtue. Exercising patience, unlike seeking control, requires a choice of placing the situation in the hands of God rather than solely your own. It is trusting in the outcome that God has in store and finding peace in the midst of it. As Christian parents, we seek to teach our children not only how to get through life but how to discern fully and follow Christ with each step along the way. The virtues are spiritual tools to do just that. So, why not start today on this path with your child to learn and grow in virtue?

 

 

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Conformity Or Conversion

“Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.” Luke 5:33-39

This Gospel reading really struck home as just moments before I had received an unexpected call from someone about to enter a mandated rehab program. Knowing that I was to speak with this young man later, I found myself considering both the change offered in the new wine and the comfort he has found in the old wineskin. Was he really ready to accept a dissimilar mode of intoxication, a radical way of moving through the life he had been accustomed to?  Or was this opportunity to be lost, unable to be readily accepted in the worn and toughened shell he conveyed?

Whether we choose to admit it or not, his story is not unlike our own. For, so too our daily choices in life help to fashion the shape and degree of flexibility of our own wineskins to accept the transformative message of the Gospel.  The constricting nature of many of our decisions can leave us feeling either trapped in a life not of our choosing or content with an accustomed conformity with what is known.

And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new,
for he says, ‘The old is good.’”

And yet, how much sweeter is the promised new wine that Christ has in store for each of us! Even though spiritual conditioning, prayer and reflection may have softened the skin, we may not be ready to accept the total conversion of heart that is required. Instead we seem perplexed when seeking to take a bit of new wine and mix it with the old it does not blend well.  Leaving us dissatisfied and wondering if we should have tried to change at all. Why is this? Well, quite simply, the life altering message of Christ does not fit into old destructive behaviors, or is it content with half-hearted measures with no conviction.  This new wine holds the assurance of new life and new possibilities that can only be received when we are willing to give up conformity for conversion.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” Blessed Mother Teresa

 †     Where in my life have I become stiffened and resistant to change? Is the pull of temptation, addictions, or conformity to the world keeping me from even desiring the new life God has waiting for me? Am I satisfied with observing empty practices or am I seeking greater meaning in my life today? 

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: The Grace We Need

If she could stand, she would undoubtedly comprise all of 5 feet. Slowly, age and physical limitations have taken her ability to walk, then stand and the wheelchair that she once could move can no longer be done on her own. Yet on the inside “Grace” towers, a living witness to a profound spirituality, her inspiring reverence and appreciation for the Eucharist is faithfully compelling.  In her suffering, she has shared not only of her struggle but of the gift and essentialness of communion and community.

It was about 6 years ago in the beginning of our Eucharistic Ministry to the nursing homes, that my husband and I first met Grace. My husband, having left Harvard when our economy took a major downturn was initially unsure of this assignment but more than ready to feel of use again. While he was certain that he could impart a bit of company and joy to those he visited in fulfilling this ministry, he was not prepared for what he would receive in return. His week spent researching the classifieds and applying for new jobs, would prove relentless with the exception of Sunday. Always faithful, but at times lukewarm in intensity, Sunday was the day he reserved for God. Little did he know that God had so much more in store for him, by this simple step forward in faith.

While wanting to go with him in these first few visits, I prayerfully held back, feeling God was preparing John for something special. So, with pyx in hand and a head full of concerns I watched as John hurriedly left the house, unquestionably working on the following day’s to-do list. However, no matter how he left the house, one could not help but notice that he never returned the same. In its place, peace and joy had consumed his countenance and he practically overflowed with a renewed strength. For, during this otherwise incredibly stressful time, God had opened a window.

After a bit of time, of observing all of this, the day came when with hopeful expectation he suddenly  asked,  “Would you like to go with me today? There is someone I would like you to meet.”   This was the moment I had patiently waited for.  “Of course, lead the way!”.  Though he carried a handwritten list of names and rooms, with notes beside each, it would be completely unnecessary. He knew each one, and wasted no time in introducing me as we entered with a rap at the door.

As we neared the last room he paused, grabbed my hand and a huge smile overtook his face. This was the one he so eagerly had wanted to share, the one that had inspired the transformation that I witnessed.

“Hi Grace!”, it’s John from St. Peter’s, “I brought my lovely wife Elizabeth with me today..”
“It is really SO good to see you, thank you for coming and making time for me..I cannot tell you what this means”, she exclaimed.
Then chatting for a few min about our families, health and week, John asked Grace, would you like to receive communion?”
“Oh, Yes! I REALLY need that!” , with hands clasped and eyes closing immediately in prayer.
“We all do Grace, we all do..” he answered without hesitation.

Have you ever considered Eucharistic ministry? Be prepared, the life transformed by Christ today, might be your own!

The Gift of Retreat

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Last weekend I experienced the gift of an Ignatian silent directed retreat at Campion Retreat House in Weston, MA . Just the thought of an unhurried, unscheduled day and release of self-imposed expectations was enough to fill my heart with joy. Teeming with insights and brimming with grace, my soul longed to soak up every moment and respond in gratitude.

Reciprocity

The word gift used here is a very full word as it implies not only what is received by the retreatant but what each person brings to the retreat as well.It is a reciprocal relationship, for truly you are only able to receive when you are willing to offer and surrender all.

Sucipe      ~St. Ignatius of Loyola

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

When there is response and surrender, there is an openness and an emptying, brokenness and renewal, discernment and clarity.

Silence

“In nature we find silence – the trees, flowers, and grass grow in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence. Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere—in the closing of a door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals. ”
–Mother Teresa,  At Play in God’s Creation

A weekend in pure silence..my family playfully remarked might be difficult for someone, like myself, who loved a good conversation. Yet, as the days drew nearer to retreat I was almost giddy with anticipation of this alone time with my heavenly Father. Oh how we fill our days with “noise”, and clatter our prayer with the unnecessary that it’s a wonder we hear his voice at all sometimes! Silence is, for me, not nothingness, but an absence of the commotion and turbulence we are so accustomed to.

Thus, silence came to me like a wave of His hand, gently clearing away the seemingly immovable objects I had placed in my path. And with each difficulty surrendered to His care, I could once again discern the sound of His voice calling me home to where I belong. No longer a desire to fill the space, I breathed- taking in the fresh and all encompassing movement of the Holy Spirit. Complete and resting in the grace of His presence.

“Oh God, you are my God in and through it all. My heart is free to love you and I long for nothing more”

Encounter

This experience of God is one of encounter, of discovering anew who our Creator is but also who he intends each of us to be. And since we never travel alone in our journey of faith, it is an encounter of Christ in others. While exchanging  only prayerful glances, and smiles my soul did exactly this amidst complete silence. From the elderly Jesuit priests in respite, and those preparing and serving  our meals,  to those also with me on retreat- I encountered both Christ and community.

Even still, there was one whom God especially drew me to. One evening in prayer, I heard the prompting to not sleep yet, but to gather my rosary and the young woman next door and take a rosary walk. Without questioning and gently tapping on her door, I held up my rosary and moved my fingers on the other hand to signal a walk.  Met with the biggest smile, I heard her unspoken yes. Unknowingly, she had just been praying  for a prayer group. There we were joyfully moving the beads on our rosaries and lifting one another in prayer. Every step had purpose and together we embraced the grace of community. Having explored our surroundings previously, our steps quickened as we neared Our Lady in the small grotto. Looking at one another, we couldn’t hide the pure delight and recognition that this place was special to each of us.

– “Lord, I am so overcome by your generosity. You are the answer to our prayers.You call us beyond ourselves to witness your transforming love.You lead us to walk with one another, to share the journey and see your love magnified in the lives of others.”

Perhaps you find it difficult to go away on retreat right now. If so, try to carve instead some time in your day to consider and embrace these fruits of retreat found in reciprocity, silence and encounter.

Peace,

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Encountering Christ's love, mercy, and compassion in dialogue & witness

Felice mi fa

Religion teacher by day, opera singer by night

Stephanie the Theoress

Wandering Modern LIfe, Finding Beauty with faith, arts and letters

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