March 9, 2013

Back From Retreat

It was good to be on retreat this past week, especially since by my most grievous fault and given the transition, I missed my annual retreat last year. What can I say? In the end I'm not a very good religious.

There was plenty of prayer, good moments to connect with the brothers, curious dreams, and wonderful food. I wrote to my mother that it was a little ironic to make a retreat during Lent at a place where the food was so good, but that the brothers seemed to manage the cognitive dissonance pretty well.

The two daily conferences, often following the readings from the Office of Readings each day but also making use of the letters of St. Pio, were given by Fr. Luciano Lotti, OFM Cap. He was good, and when he was in lecture mode I was able to understand just about everything. When he got into anecdote or funny story mode, not so much. Here he is:

At the end of the retreat, he gave us each a copy of his new book, The Affective Life of Padre Pio: The interior world and the care of souls in the journals of his spiritual daughters. So that should be an interesting read.

In my prayer during the retreat, a simple intention kept coming back to me:

Lord, may I seek you as I once did.

Perhaps coincidentally but also perhaps because of my reflecting along those lines, it also occurred to me during the retreat that I had passed the point at which I had spent the larger part of my time on earth since my baptism. So whatever is made of it, there's no denying that this religion business has come to define me. Certainly it's true on the outside; I am baptized, now having spent more time on earth as a Christian than not, a professed religious, and a priest. I enjoy the intense privileges of living under the same roof as the Blessed Sacrament and in the town where Peter and Paul were martyred.

But does this journey define me inside as much as it once did? It's a hazardous thought. On the one hand, it could be the desire of the flesh to run back to the fleshpots of first fervor, to the consolations given to beginners, to the time when every material thing associated with the faith was like a new toy, etc. But on the other hand, there is a need to keep purifying one's intention, to keep renewing and deepening one's guard of the heart, to repent anew of pet obstacles and comfortable compromises that one has allowed to make a comfy home in the heart and mind.

So I tried to make that my prayer. Better, I tried to let go and surrender to the prayer that the Spirit willed to make in me, that I might let go of the distractions and stupidities that I have allowed to accumulate in my consciousness over the years and which have weakened my desire to seek God and him alone. Lord, may I seek you as I once did.

Here are some new friends I made on the retreat. The first is Frate Leone (i.e. Br. Leo), who seemed to have a fervent devotion to the Franciscan cord.

"We tried to sits. We didn't fits."


Judy Kallmeyer said...

Perhaps you are not meant to seek the Lord as you once did. You are a different person now, seasoned by a number of years as a religious and a priest. You are deeper. You have had some life changing experiences. You have seen the Lord's love for you manifested in various ways. You are becoming to walking your personal way of the cross. So seek Him as you are now--older, hopefully wiser, more committed than you were then, needing different things than you did then. You are right about abandonment. That is the main thing needed by all of us who are serious about living the Christ-life. Living Galatians 2:20 ff is not easy. We have indeed been crucified with Christ and the life we live is not our own, but He lives in us. The question comes up as,"Am I really living His life, or am I still living my own life? Is this a masquerade or the real thing? Have I really let go and let God? Not always easy questions to answer as it is quite easy for us to deceive ourselves. I reflect on this Scripture frequently. I must say that having MS is teaching me something about letting go. I certainly do nor have the control of my body that I used to have. My gait is really quirky lately, sometimes that of a drunk. It's embarrassing sometimes. It's frightening at other times (I have nearly fallen a few times). But I have to surrender to the fact that my body does not function the way it used to, and surrender all its quirks to the Lord even as I must surrender my will to His, because this is what it really is. It is easy to say that I surrender my will to His until something comes along that is really difficult to surrender, like control. But seeing it ebb and flow, and not knowing what course it will take, I must, have no choice but to surrender myself to Him. I cannot seek Him as the "starry eyed" "postulant" in the first bloom of love. The honeymoon is over and the sometimes drudgery of "married life" has taken over. I must seek Him as He wants, not as I want. And I do not always know what that means. And so I have to surrender and trust that as I put one spiritual foot in front of the other, even as I move my physical feet, I will not stumble and fall flat on my face. He often leads in ways unknown to us. It is as if we are walking blind. But He has us by the hand and He will not let go. May He have mercy on us. Jesus, I trust in You must be our motto.

Louis M said...

I had missed this post before...

Thank you so very much for posting the video of Fr Luciano! It was a pleasure to watch. What a lucky man: he got to meet 3 saints!!!