What a beautiful morning, so peaceful, so full of promise. And the countdown is on!
Can’t wait for our second eight-day spiritual exercises silent retreat at Our Lady of Corpus Christi (OLCC) in September. Truth is, we haven’t been quite the same since our first time living among the SOLTs: two seminarians; fewer than ten priests, most retired, some physically challenged, yet all zealously engaged within their vibrant community; and their steadfast assistants, religious and/or members of the greater church community, in various capacities.
July 20-27, 2014
Steven and I arrived at Our Lady’s House at OLCC an hour early to unpack and get situated before the official start of our retreat at five-thirty in the evening.
Having gone through ACTS (March 29 through April 1, 2012) at the OLCC retreat center had been torturous— too noisy, too rushed, too orchestrated, too confining— yet there I was ready to embark on not a three-day, but an eight-day silent retreat?!!
I could no longer keep my true feelings from Steven.
“What was I thinking when you signed us up in January? I know I agreed to experience the journey with you, but I don’t want to be here! I thought I could do it, but I just want to go home.”
Still, I was curious.
Since ACTS I’d wanted to enter and explore Our Lady’s House, but all I could do was wonder about it from a distance. So how could I pass on the golden opportunity? On the other hand, confinement, obedience, and “detachment?” Hmm, I wasn’t so sure about the latter— Fr. Dan’s nagging nugget— that dropped more like a bomb than a rose leaf on this Chicken Little’s tail during our brief welcome two hours later.
Discomforting disequilibrium reigned supreme despite my resilient spirit and cool, calm, collected demeanor.
Could I make it without climbing the walls and wanting to flee in the middle of the night?
Steven had the keys to the Tahoe, his room was down the hall from mine, and we weren’t supposed to talk.
I was desperate for an escape plan just in case!
I struggled off and on despite sharing these feelings, first, with Steven on Sunday before retreating to our separate rooms and then with Fr. Dan at Monday’s one-on-one, half-hour meeting.
But what a view from my room!
During ACTS we’d stayed in the dorms across the street from Our Lady’s House and the big fenced area. I’d very much wanted to explore the proverbial carrot then but hadn’t had time. Yet, here, from the window of my newly-assigned room (205) within Our Lady’s House, I glimpsed that slice of heaven.
So how could I resist God’s delightful invitation to fully engage in the meditation garden?
Quiet prayer time
Steven’s “easy fix” made my retreat doable. He gave me the keys to the vehicle so that I’d feel free to stay.
My daily visits to the meditation garden became my treasure trove, my saving grace; the lovely garden, an extension of my living space within. I could hide in plain sight, visit throughout the day, enjoy the solitude, and immerse myself in prayerful thoughts and devotions familiar and new.
For the very first time I was able to enjoy, embrace, internalize, and grow my devotion to the Stations, thanks to the Behold! The Way of the Cross booklet that I’d intentionally selected from among the prayer items available for us to borrow during our retreat.
Moreover, as I worked on Fr. Dan’s daily assignments, I sat by the window that provided the best view not just to whet the senses and savor the day’s memories, but also to observe visitors— individuals and/or couples with babies in strollers— whose peaceful, cheerful indulgence in quiet prayer time allowed me the luxury of double- and triple-dipping in God’s awesomeness.
Sharing the experience
I was so captivated by the Stations of the Cross that Steven ordered copies of the Behold! booklet for me the third day of our retreat. And— wouldn’t you know it— the first box awaited us on the front porch when we arrived home. I could continue the devotion without skipping a beat! I was so stoked that I had to share with others!
At home OLCC’s meditation garden is as close as keeping company with the Stations of the Cross while walking the treadmill or riding my air bike.
God, our heavenly father,
we raise our minds and hearts to you in praise and thanksgiving.
Though weak and sinful, we wish to follow your only son, our Lord Jesus,
on the way of the cross. May your Holy Spirit help us
use our Savior’s strength effectively in our place in life.
We ask the special aid of our blessed Lady, ever virgin and mother,
in following Christ and in making his way of the cross our way of life. Amen.
O God, our heavenly father,
by your great mercy we are born anew to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, your son.
We look forward to the inheritance, imperishable and unfading,
which you have reserved for us in heaven. We thank you
for calling us to eternal glory in Jesus, our savior.
We ask your forgiveness
for the many times we have failed in following Christ.
May the remembrance of his life, passion, and resurrection
sustain us on our earthly way of the cross. May his example
strengthen us in faith, hope, and love. And when we come to die,
may we, by your gracious goodness, be born again to eternal life. Amen.
Opening and closing prayers (above) are from Your Way of the Cross (FMA, B-13R, pp. 3 & 11, respectively). Behold! The Way of the Cross is from Creative Communications for the Parish, 10300 Watson Road, St. Louis, MO 63127-1106; The Way of the Cross is from Barton Cotton Religious Products & Services, LLC, 3030 Waterview Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21230-3509; and The Stations of the Cross pamphlet is from the Pallottines at the St. Jude Shrine, Nationwide Center of St. Jude Devotions, 512 W. Saratoga Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-1896. Your Way of the Cross leaflets and the Retreat Booklet are from Franciscan Mission Associates, P.O. Box 598, Mt. Vernon, NY 10551-0598; and A Prayer in Honor of Our Lady of Sorrows is from the Servants of Mary, The Servite Order, 1439 South Harlem Avenue, Berwyn, IL 60402-0712.
OLCC’s meditation garden
September 1, 2015
Turn your eyes incessantly to the Blessed Virgin; she, who is the Mother of Sorrows and also the Mother of Consolation, can understand you completely and help you. Looking to her, praying to her, you will obtain that your tedium will become serenity, your anguish change into hope, and your grief into love (Pope St. John Paul II).
September 2, 2015
Steven emailed in response to my invitation to view the photos.
Sent: Wednesday, 10:41 AM
Subject: Quiet prayer time
My perspective is different, as should be expected. I found that starting the day in the blue dome with the SOLTs chanting the morning Divine Office produced serenity and a contemplative spirit that lasted through the day. The afternoon participation in the rosary and vespers in community with the religious balanced that and prepared me for a quiet evening of study. I would usually complete the readings and do most of the assignment work before I took my long afternoon walk. The heat, exercise, and solitude combined to allow me to think about what I had explored, apply those things to myself, review my shortcomings, and devote it all to God. It was a sweaty time of confession and adoration.
Like you, the time in the meditation garden was special. The booklet offered more of a Marian perspective on the Stations than I had experienced before, and that made it an increasingly emotional time. The last couple of days I was in tears toward the end of the prayers.
It was also very special to see the love and care the religious showed for each other, especially the way the young revered the elders and founders of the order. They lived their vows, and it was a blessing to witness it. I look forward to being in their house again.
September 8, 2015
What a joy to remember that [Mary] is our mother! Since she loves us and knows our weakness, what have we to fear? (St. Thérèse of Lisieux).
September 10, 2015
“Let those who think that the Church pays too much attention to Mary give heed to the fact that Our Blessed Lord himself gave ten times as much of his life to her as he gave to his apostles” (Venerable Fulton J. Sheen).
September 11, 2015
There is no one, O most holy Mary, who can know God except through you; no one who can be saved or redeemed but through you, O Mother of God; no one who can be delivered from dangers but through you, O Virgin Mother; no one who obtains mercy but through you, O Filled-With-All-Grace! (St. Germanus of Constantinople).
September 19, 2015
“Prayer is a pasturage, a field, wherein all the virtues find their nourishment, growth, and strength” (St. Catherine of Siena)
September 22, 2015
After lunch at the retreat center yesterday, Steven and I took a walk as I mentally ruminated my morning.
I wasn’t sure about sharing my thoughts with Steven, being that we pretty much stay in silent mode on retreat; but halfway through the walk I pushed my reluctance aside to “make meaning” out loud.
Walking to the meditation garden the long way around to the back of Our Lady’s House (priests occupy the first floor; retreatants, the second), I shared my discomfort, dismay, disillusion, and downright disgust. Yep, still “mad” this morning, though not looney!
Whenever anyone insults my (our) intelligence or in some way irks me (us), Steven and I break away to compare and contrast our experiences, thoughts, and feelings about the situation (as we did last summer when Fr. Dan disturbed my sense of correctness by refusing to lend me a Behold! Stations of the Cross booklet despite my promise to promptly return it after I scanned the prayers at home).
Once at the gazebo in the meditation garden, Steven pulled up two chairs for us to sit and talk openly without regard to anyone seeing us. At that point, rules were moot and our researcher instincts (doctoral training) took over. We, not they, were in full control as we analyzed data before deciding on a course of action.
Last summer the solution was simple: We got the Stations booklet info off the back cover, Steven placed an order from his cell phone, and the box of booklets awaited us when we returned home from the retreat. But the matter wasn’t an easy fix this time.
Red flags started when we showed up on Saturday. Our brains are not tabulae rasae! I sensed repetitiveness and mediocrity. Right away I wanted to leave but said nothing. Long story maybe for another time?
Then, during my Monday morning half-hour session I was offended, resulting in a second talk that I initiated moments after the last retreatant’s session. “I want to go home,” I told Fr. Dan. And, exactly what I thought would happen, did.
Once Steven and I talked, we realized that we’d both been thinking and feeling the same since Saturday. He, too, had held off sharing “to keep from ruining the retreat experience.” So, at four o’clock we took flight and vowed not to return.
Sent: Tuesday, 10:44 AM
Subject: Steven’s response
The last part is rather harsh. Accurate, but harsh.
If it were my post, I would soften it by acknowledging that the first retreat was a wonderful experience. Then explain…
“This year we anticipated being able to pick up where we left off, but there is no provision for a progressive experience. We were to start over: same material, same process, and same dogmatic direction. That was not what we wanted; and it was dry, unfulfilling, unimaginative. There was no intellectual dialogue to explore the interplay of spirituality and emotional experiences so that we could grow. We were basically on our own for that. Guidance was prescriptive, normative, and out of synch with our current spiritual status. We had moved to a higher level than OLCC was able to offer, so we chose to leave rather than increase our disconnectedness and frustration.”
October 5, 2015
Silence is not classified as a virtue, but it is the atmosphere in which virtues develop. At the same time, it is a sign of their maturity. Thus, just as we know that when the golden spikes of wheat appear in the field the grain is ripe, so also when a virtue is tinted with silence we perceive that it is reaching maturity (Archbishop Luis Martinez, When God is Silent).
November 4, 2015
Would you like me to teach you how to grow from virtue to virtue and how, if you are already recollected at prayer, you can be even more attentive next time and so give God more pleasing worship? Listen, and I will tell you. If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out. Keep the stove tightly shut so that it will not lose its heat and grow cold. In other words, avoid distractions as well as you can. Stay quiet with God. Do not spend your time in useless chatter…. This is the way we can easily overcome the countless difficulties we have to face day after day… (St. Charles Borromeo).
Front view from the second-floor veranda – Our Lady’s House – OLCC
Links of interest… Feast of the triumph of the cross (our only hope)… Ignatian Spirituality: online / videos: (1) prayer, (2) an overview, (3) finding God in all things (other 6 & picturing God), (4) spiritual exercises, (5) examen, (6) discernment… Little Office of Our Lady: about / book (more) / consecrating the hours / hymns, psalms, & readings / introduction / prayers (more)… Liturgy of the hours: about (more) / & Lent / Breviary / Divine Office / history / Universalis: apps & programs & daily email… Love of a good hug… Mary: help of Christians / mother of God quotes… Missing ingredients of evangelization… Online retreats: 34-week (multilingual) / adult & teen / Catholics on call / Colleen Spiro / Ignatian: 3-minute & 8-week… Our Lady of Corpus Christi (OLCC): adoration chapel / bookstore & café / deep prayer / retreats / website… Pilgrimages meet our soul’s need for peace, quiet, & strength… Prayer before the cross / a crucifix… Roaring lion, mourning dove, word of God… SOLT… Stations of the Cross: about / devotions / fisheaters / for families / for kids / how to do / origins / prayers (video & music) / printables / puppet show (YT) / scriptural (JPII) / significance / way of the cross… Via Crucis at the Colosseum with Pope Francis…
WP posts… Capuchin church stations… Familiar yet new… God’s master plan… Holy Cross Church… Lady of sorrows… Lenten meditations… Lenten reflections… Lenten resources… Sioux chapel stations… St. Michael chaplet… Today’s Beatitudes
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