As I sit down to write some reflections for this week there is a group of teenagers outside my door playing cards waiting for their retreat to begin. I am taken back to my teen years and the gift of a weekend retreat which awakened me to the bigger community, the Body of Christ in so many new ways and that my own faith was deepening. Over the course of that weekend I met people my age; that like me, were asking the same questions about their faith, that were seeking to know the love of God and were trying to fit into a bigger picture. That weekend introduced me to the power of community prayer, to the quiet of personal prayer, to a new joy in the community of believers and the gift of being who I am as others expressed the gift of who they are. It had a great impact on me and opened me up to what would become my future ministry as a Youth Minister and Pastoral Assistant. Now as I reflect back on that retreat so many years ago it seems in part that it was igniting in me a flame which today is a fire aglow as I minister as part of a Retreat Team; living at a Retreat Centre.
As the volume swells and then dissipates in the hallway it seems to reflect my pattern of life. Ministering as part of a Retreat Team means that there are times when demands are high: meetings for planning, presentations being crafted, talks presented, interaction with retreatants and helping with tasks to keep us functioning are the buzz that fills the day. At other times it is the moments of prayer, the time to read, the gift of the Eucharist or a long walk which clears the buzz, calms my pace and awakens me to the still small voice which called me to this way of life.
I’m often asked: “What does a day look like for you as a Franciscan Brother?”
My answer is: Living at Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre means that no two days are the same. The only consistent parts are gathering at the table of prayer and Eucharist and gathering at the meal table. Which means that “breaking bread” is central to who I am as a Friar. Breaking open scripture and prayer and gathering at the table of Eucharist with my brothers is the foundation of keeping us focused on living the gospel here at The Mount. Breaking bread together at our meal table; whether it is the group of eight of us Friars or our staff has joined us, allows us to break open the stories of our lives, our concerns, the concerns of the world, the ministry of retreats and those we have encountered. This leads us back to the table of prayer.
Each day is different and that is a gift. Each day calls me to be present and attentive. Each day asks, “Where is Christ in this day?” and “How have you helped to build the kingdom?” These questions stir and swirl in me. Some days the answer is quick and ready, other days I need to sit with them. Not because Christ has not been present rather that it has caused the need to pause longer, to reflect on my own living out of my vows and to see how I am called to live the gospel here and now. It amazes me, each and every day I am amazed.
In a world that is busy and demanding, in a world which tries to rob us of time to be quiet and encounter the depths of who we are, and even in a schedule which can be demanding for me as a Friar the gift of retreat still speaks to me. I am awakened to the beating of my heart and how God beats in this heart of mine. I am awakened to how Christ does walk with me stride by stride. I am awakened to the breath of the Holy Spirit breathing in me and whispering truth to me. The gift of retreat for me all those years ago and still today are God reminding me: I am with you; I am in relationship with you – no matter what. For that I am thankful for each and every day.
How is your heart?
What is stirring in you?
Do you need a retreat?
Can you take time? A retreat in your day? in your week? away from it all?
We have been given an extra day this year… what’s stopping you?
Come and be filled… God’s blessing abound!