March 29, 2014

Back From Retreat Ramble

I'm back in Rome after the week in Assisi. The 'spiritual exercises' were good, just not what I would call a retreat. It's a nice time to be with the brothers, to hang out, to have some time away from work and the usual routine. And of course it's always a privilege to be able to visit Assisi, to pray at the tomb of Francis and before the relics of St. Clare.

St. Mary of the Angels from the Sacro Convento

I guess St. Joseph's Abbey, Spencer, MA, has forever ruined me on other retreats. I just want to be left alone in the quiet of the retreat house chapel and my little room, to go to church for prayers, and to eat the simple food in silence while I ignore the audio book that's playing.

A retreatant's room in Spencer

Nevertheless, I prayed. And I realized how grateful I am for the grace of prayer, especially as it first began to become explicit in me during the days of my 'seeking' and in the ways it was hidden in some of my questions and wonderings long before that.

I found myself praying in thanksgiving for all the people the Lord has given me that I might desire prayer and learn to pray: The Quakers in New Haven and New London with whom I first learned to sit in silence, the classmate in the OFM who pointed me towards Thomas Keating and Centering Prayer, the spiritual director from the same time from whom I began to learn that the line between grace from what feels like our action is not always so obvious, and many other spiritual and retreat directors, as well as the great teachers the Lord has given me from tradition, John Cassian, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Augustine Baker, Columba Marmion, Edith Stein, Thomas Merton.

I kept thinking of a particular grace, one that I have mentioned many times on this blog. It was when I was applying to the Capuchins and I needed a recommendation from my pastor. At that time I was a parishioner of St. Lawrence on Main St. in West Haven, CT. When I asked the pastor for the recommendation, he said that he would be happy to write it. He said that I seemed to have a "desire for prayer."

That little comment has supported me for years. Not because I took it as a compliment, then or now, but because it points to grace. I do desire prayer, and I know that this is a mission of the Holy Spirit within me. And it's there regardless of the oscillations of my devotion and laziness, of what I feel like calling states of grace or not, of having a taste for prayer or not. It's there as the thread that makes a single reality out of all the brothers and sisters and places, and projects and tasks that this adventure of Christianity has brought me. This is especially good for me to remember in the wild ride things have been, inside and out, since August 1, 2010, when I went to the sacristy to ask the blessing of my guardian and then drove myself and my stuff (back) to Boston.

So I pray, I take refuge in God through prayer, I sit and consent to the Spirit carrying the spoken Word of God in the living, breathing, creation. And I desire to surrender to that Word spoken in me that I might become a Christian.


Louis M said...


Please be careful with Centering Prayer. Try Lectio Divina itself (you probably already do. :o ). Safer. ;)


Anonymous said...

I identify with the struggle to enter the silence when on retreat. However, I don't know how people do without them and retreats are becoming a thing of the past for most people it seems to me anyway.