One thing I love about the place where I am teaching right now is how it gives importance not only to our professional formation but more importantly to our personal formation as well. Every year our institution encourages us to take a leave from work and attend close retreats to nourish our soul and to keep the fire of our relationship with the Lord burning.
I always look forward to my annual retreat because it has become sort of a rest stop for me. This year (by year I mean June-March, as a teacher, we tend to count years on that measure) has been an extremely difficult one as this is the year that my family went through the most trying time in our life. This is also the year where I decided to finally start my Masteral in Special Education. The year when BlancNotes happened and when my husband started his new business. I was struggling to be a lot of things for the past months and during the course of my struggle I have to admit that not only did my body took a hard beating but my soul too.
Last Monday, I left everything behind, my family, work, webpage, obligations, worries etc. to stay in the retreat house for three days of quiet contemplation. My days were filled with prayers, meditations and reflections. Although my family was never far from my mind when I was there, I welcomed the distance from them to be with the Lord. I bask in His careful attention and His company. I let myself be taken cared of in the most lavish way without the feeling guilty about it–sleeping in the quiet comfort of one of the best rooms and having the most delicious meal after meal after meal. I allowed myself to be guided by people who provided the best spiritual direction. The past three days were the perfect rest stops for my soul who, for the past months, has been needing the kind of nourishment that only the Lord can provide.
The Lord’s messages were clear during those three days. I know that His messages were not for me to keep but for me to share with the rest of you. He made me understand four important things:
We should never get tired of performing our norms of piety. What are norms of piety? Saying our morning and evening prayers, saying the Angelus, going to mass every Sunday, saying the rosary, etc. I have to admit that due to the overwhelming activities that I have entrusted upon myself, sometimes they have taken a back seat. During this retreat I realized that for me, this has been so because I have begun to look at these things as some sort of obligations that I have to perform. I have lost touch with my own divinity. I have forgotten that Mass is in itself a celebration of Thanksgiving to the Lord, that every bead of the rosary are rose offerings that delights Our Lady. The retreat made it possible for me to rekindle my personal relationship with the Lord. Having a healthy personal relationship with the Lord is important because it is only by having this deep connection with the Lord that we can perform acts of piety with consistency and with love.
We can see God in the most ordinary things. We have to seek Him in everything that we do. It is not enough that we know Him, we have to let what we know about him to radically change the way we live our life. Like forgiveness, we know that God is a forgiving Father and so we must learn to forgive. We know that God would want us to choose to do the right thing, and so we make the right choices. We should always be guided by our knowledge of Him. As what Father Patio said in one of our meditations, “We have to let what we know about Him in our head to sink in our hearts and manifest itself in our life.”
We should have faith in the divine providence. No prayers are left unanswered. We measure time by days, weeks, months and years. God measures time by eternity. In answering prayers, God uses His own measure and not ours. Therefore, we should not say that God did not answer our prayers. God sometimes delays giving our intentions so that we persevere in our prayer, so that we grow in faith. Faith that God will see us through and he will reward our efforts. In answering our prayers, God will give what He thinks is best for us and not what we think is best for our self, in His own perfect time.
We should embrace our cross. We should learn to love our cross. Each of us have our own cross to bear, a person that we can’t stand to be with, a condition that is making our life difficult, a situation that we can’t seem to get out of. Yes is it painful to have, difficult to be with, annoying to be around but we have to learn to allow ourselves to “die little by little” everyday. It is a means by which we can experience Christ sufferings on the cross. And these little sacrifices are what we can offer everyday as acts of mortification for our sins, these are what will sanctify us and bring us to heaven. Like what St.Augustine said, “Life without a cross is life without living. Our cross is what will make us strong and closer to God.”
I left the retreat with renewed faith that whatever happens in my life, God has full control over it. It is not for me to question but for me to accept because whichever way blessings will come, may it be wrapped in hardship or sorrow, or handed in a silver platter, there’s always faith in knowing that it is all designed to make me ready for God in the end.
“I want to bring you to the end, not by your plans nor by your ways, but by Myself”