Today I participated in my new parish’s women’s retreat. I had earlier decided to go as a means to meet new people, and to feel connected with this new community. I was also in need of some quiet time for prayer. Upon arrival, I was greeted with a gift bag and ushered to a gourmet breakfast. This mother-of-five was feeling rather pampered after only five minutes! But I was treated to much, much more as the day progressed.
The theme was “Strength for the Journey” and the program began with heartfelt, deep prayer. Musicians shared songs inspired by the Holy Spirit, written especially for this retreat. I was pleasantly surprised that the celebration of the Holy Eucharist had been included in the schedule! I was given the chance for meditation and personally reflected on my own temptations to be my own strength, rather than relying on God as my Everything. Living the spirituality of communion of life with Christ through His Blessed Mother, I was touched by women sharing about the significance of Mary being their mother, too. It was as if God was reassuring me that this was my new home. I had been comparing this parish to my previous one mercilessly, and now I was finally open to recognizing God’s presence and will that I be at peace here.
But most of all, I was touched deeply by the vulnerability of the guest speakers. They shared their stories in such detail and openness that I was humbled to my core. I have not experienced such grief (not even close), and I was absolutely amazed at the strength of God’s grace. I was reminded of how close God is to me, to each of us. I was overwhelmed with the awareness of how God loves us each uniquely and with such attention to small details. I was amazed that, despite the deep pain, the faith of these women was strengthened. In their weakness, they discovered God’s strength. They were in need of His grace, His love, His mercy - and He delivers again, and again, and again. And I sensed their gratitude.
Being Control Freak, one of my mixed reactions was fear – fear of a similar situation happening in my life. I know that my faith is not strong. I want to say, “Lord, let it be done to me according to Thy word,” but I am too weak! So as I reflect on this more, I turn to the arms of my Mama, and ask her to carry me. As I prayed I was directed to the following:
….”Because of gratitude, you can begin to perceive the entire world surrounding you as God’s arms embracing you. Maybe in the light of faith you will see a discreet inscription on the things around you: “A gift from the Lord God” or “A gift from the Loving Presence.” …The deeper your gratitude becomes, the more you can begin to hear…how the world around you speaks of Love. After all, all of God’s gifts that surround you whisper, repeat, and call out:
I love you as you are. Therefore, I am with you. I take care of you. I give you everything that you need every day. If you need the bitter pill of suffering, then I give it to you, but only because I know that it is the most priceless gift that you may receive at this moment. When you need a sweet candy you receive it, because without it, My dearest, you cannot manage on your own.
S.C. Biela, The Two Pillars (Ft Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006), 73-74
So in our Blessed Mother’s arms, I am at peace and I am grateful. I received a lot of sweet candies today…the biggest being the awareness of how intimately God loves you and me.