As you know from my Friday post, I went on retreat over the weekend. In one word, it was fabulous!
I almost didn’t make it, though. Around 2:00 I got a phone call presenting me with something that had to be taken care of immediately and for an unknown duration. So, what’s a woman to do? Set aside my plans, putting #87 back down there on the list, and attend to what God put before me. One of the first things I did was to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, seeking wisdom, knowledge and mercy for what lay ahead.
I won’t go into the details, but after a few hours, it was pretty clear that I’d be able to go. I shook my head and thought, “God must have something wonderful planned for me, because I thought this was a show stopper.” Indeed, He did.
The retreat took place at the Saint Benedict Abbey in Still River, MA, a serene, country location well suited for getting away. Hosted by the Little Daughters of the Sacred Heart, “I Thirst” captured the theme for the weekend.
It started by seeing a whole bunch of people I hadn’t seen in a very long time, and one friend who I just haven’t seemed to be able to connect with in months. How we, as women, thirst for sisterly companionship! The Lord filled that cup to the rim, and I drank from it with delight!
Fr. Marc Montminy spoke to us on Friday evening. Pastor of St. Michael Church in Exeter, NH, and former pastor of Ste. Marie’s in Manchester, NH, he is one of my all time faves – a true shepherd and an inspiring, holy priest. He delivered a simple and clear message: “Seek first the kingdom of God and all the rest shall be added unto you.” (Mt 6:33)
Trust challenges us, particularly as women. We worry about many things, big and small, and letting go to only “seek first his kingdom” stretches us to a deeper relationship and reliance on God, which is the only way to “the peace that surpasses all understanding.” (Phil 4:7) A conscious and deliberate decision to abandon ourselves to the Divine Will accompanies seeking first his kingdom. It is a decision. So often, we struggle; we give it over; we take it back. Our human nature, tainted by original sin, weakens our will and our trust. I believe another component exists that we sometimes ignore.
Past hurts skew our view of God. We learn to trust by trusting. We learn it first in our human relationships. If our experience of love is conditional, and we have been hurt deeply by those who were supposed to love and cherish us most, we always hold something back. Seeking first his kingdom is primarily an act of faith. Prayer for healing of any hurts that hold back true abandonment should accompany that act of faith. The father who brings his mute son to Jesus best models it in Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” He recognizes what holds him back and approaches the fount of mercy which will water his faith. We must do the same in our trusting: “My Jesus, I trust in You. Heal any brokenness that holds me back from trusting you completely.” Each time we do that, Jesus draws us deeper into the abode of his Most Merciful Heart.
Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, delivered the message of Saturday in two talks: Consoling the Heart of Jesus, based on a book he wrote while in the seminary. A lively, engaging speaker, with an easy way of communicating deep spiritual truths, Fr. Gaitley, who was only recently ordained in October 2010, challenged us to embrace and recognize this time in history as a “time of extraordinary grace” and to make our lives an offering of merciful love to Jesus. We do that by receiving His mercy and giving Him our complete trust. I could write volumes on what he said, but I think it better to direct you to his book, Consoling the Heart of Jesus.
I have not yet read the book, but those who have read it highly recommend it. Hearing Fr. Gaitley speak, I can see why. Combining the spirituality of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Faustina, and St. Louis de Montfort, this book presents “a do-it-yourself retreat inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.”
With Lent fast approaching, I decided to make this retreat my Lenten spiritual exercise. The Divine Mercy website has a terrific invitation to make this your retreat as well. It’s a bit of an infomercial, but you should check it out: Why not chocolate?
I know that I want to go deeper in my faith and in my relationship with Jesus, and I need help getting there. Additionally, “I am confident that the one who began a good work in me will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6) It is His work in me that will deepen my faith and trust, but I’ve got to take the first step. So…this will be my first step for Lent. As Fr. Gaitley said this weekend, “Effort is absolutely necessary, but absolutely useless.” Who knows what the Lord has waiting for me!!!! Won’t you join me?
If this retreat intrigues you, you might consider doing the retreat with others. In the past I’ve hosted Lenten book discussion groups in my parish and in my home on Saturday mornings after Mass, which seemed to be a pretty good day and time of the week. If this is something you’ve never done, consider doing it. It’s pretty simple. Find out who might be interested, find a time and place, ask people to bring their book and something to share, provide some coffee and you’re good to go! If you’re someone who tends to hang back and not initiate something like this, pray about it. This could be your greatest Lenten sacrifice.
Finally, one of the highlights of the weekend was my visit to the relic room. The Abbey has one of the largest collections of relics in the country. The room can only be visited with permission because it is in the monastery. The time we spent was much too short, but I begrudge it not, as pure gratitude lead the way. Since starting this blog almost a year ago, I have learned so much about the Church and my older brothers and sisters, the saints. When I think of heaven, I get so excited about all the saints that I will see for the first time! So, to stand before a shelf on the wall which holds relics of all 33 doctors of the Church and to the left of that relics of the 12 apostles and over to the left of that, relics of the true cross, Our Lady’s veil, Saints Joseph, Joachim and Anne, I was like a kid in a candy store!!! I kissed the relics of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Albert the Great, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Augustine, the true cross, Our Lady’s veil, Saints Joseph, Joachim and Anne. Then we had to leave, and I had only just started! My only regret was that I couldn’t locate St. Raymond Peñafort. I’ll save that for next time!
In closing, I leave you with a call to action: plan your Lenten retreat. Whatever it is and wherever it is, ask the Lord to show you. He will. You can be sure of that!
My Jesus I trust in You! Anne