“God has done wonderful things for us and holy is His name…”
We remember with such joy the marked readiness, receptivity and openness that best describes the faces of the seven women and one husband who came to commit themselves to a three-day retreat in Lac La Hache in September 2009.
We were there to support them in prayer during those days. We felt our presence added to their confidence and trust in a God whose loving arms were more than enough to embrace them all into His ever-caring and listening heart.
Each participant received an afghan blanket, blessed earlier, as a reminder of God’s warmth and love.
Similarly powerful symbols were used to keep them focused, and present, during retreat sessions facilitated by the five-member team that included two of our priests in the Diocese, Father Andrew L’Heureux and Father Derrick Cameron. Others involved were a mother and daughter team in the kitchen – a generous lady who, besides being the greeter, did a thousand-and-one little things in the house such as setting the table, placing new verse cards at table each morning and adding creative touches in the dining room.
On the first day, retreatants were enveloped in much silence and seriousness as they journeyed to their innermost selves, taking a hard look at their pains in life. This experience led them towards owning these problems, learning from them and, finally, taking efforts to recognize and accept the implications of these pains.
Indeed, they came out of this purifying process acknowledging the limitedness of their own selves, realizing their need of God’s healing love and forgiveness and starting life anew, this time taking a more responsible stance towards nurturing life.
It was no surprise that on the second day there appeared before the Blessed Sacrament stones with which the group chose to signify their pains. Offering these stones to the Lord were gestures of “letting go” and entrusting to God their pains – and their burdens of family life. There were varying capacities for letting go, so that not all of the stones were offered before the Lord at the same time. The last day concluded with the celebration of the Eucharist, preceded with a very rich and meaningful memorial service in honour of the babies whom the participants lost in abortion or through miscarriage. Participants were asked to read aloud their letters to their own children. This was not without tears, yet it was not without joy because the parents have reconciled with themselves, with their children and with God! The participants were renewed in their commitment towards upholding their reverence for the sacredness of life and this time with a much greater fervor.
Here lies the challenge of humility, of vulnerability, of trust and openness to a God who constantly speaks to us in our experiences.
To this challenge, the participants did indeed respond with strength of will! May their experience encourage others to dare to trust God, with His unlimited power to heal the bruised and to reconcile us all into His unity with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. For this life-giving and transforming event, we can exclaim with Mary, “God has done wonderful things for us and holy is His name…”
By Sisters Analisa, Maria and Tarcie – Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception(SFIC) Kamloops